NFC West: Frank Gore

Frank Gore has said late in this lost season that he should not be judged on what has happened to him this year.

A career-low 3.9 yards per carry to go with 804 rushing yards, the second-fewest of his 10-year career, might have many whispering that he is nearing the end of an impressive run. His contract expires at the end of this season.

Gore
But it’s also obvious Gore, one of just 10 running backs in NFL history to rush for at least 10,000 yards with one team, has not exactly been put in the best position to succeed individually as the San Francisco 49ers went away from a power-running identity early, and then waffled back and forth.

“A little light,” Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday of Gore’s workload this season. “A little light. A little light. But there are several games where you would like to be handing it off at the end of the game with numbing repetition. He’s really good in those situations. We really haven’t had them lately.

“But a little light in that regard; opportunities just not there. Limited possession games, et cetera. A lot of things go into that.”

The Niners have not been in a position to salt away a lead as they sit at 7-7 and eliminated from the playoff race with two games to go after three straight NFC championship game appearances.

And with Gore having suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss at Seattle, there is a very real possibility that he has already played his final game in Santa Clara. Still, coach Jim Harbaugh said he expects Gore to pass the NFL-mandated concussion protocol and suit up Saturday against the San Diego Chargers at Levi’s Stadium.

Gore’s 804 yards this season are his fewest since his rookie season of 2005, when he carried the ball for 608 yards and started only one game.

“I mean, Frank Gore, since the day I got here, has been the heart and soul, really,” Roman said. “This year, when the going gets tough, things aren’t going the way you like, we’re not producing to the level we expect or are used to or want to or [are] working for. Who’s blinking? Who’s going to change? Not Frank Gore.

“To wrap it up in a nice, tidy box, he is a great leader and somebody that, man, he’s fun to coach, fun to coach.”

So long as you don’t judge him, right?
OAKLAND, Calif. – Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers’ 24-13 loss to the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum:
  • Brooks
    Ahmad Brooks, who entered the day with a 60-game starting streak for the 49ers, did not appear in the game after missing a defensive meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the players’ day off, he said. Brooks said he was never told he would not play against the Raiders and figured it out as the game rolled on. He was on time, though, for the league-mandated meeting on domestic violence at 11:30 a.m., he said. “No, I don’t agree,” with not playing, Brooks said. “I’m just a player, a number.”
  • After initially saying there was no incident with a cameraman heading into the tunnel at halftime, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a question later, acknowledged that something did, in fact, happen. “If I try to put something in you face, you’d try to move away, too,” said Kaepernick, who actually pushed the camera away by the lens.
  • The last player out of the 49ers’ locker room was running back Frank Gore, who takes losses especially hard and said this defeat was “shocking,” though not entirely surprising. “It’s been a tough year, up and down,” Gore said. “This is the lowest point … last year of [my] contract, I want to go out with at least a shot to hold that [Lombardi] Trophy.”
Hunter
With Marcus Lattimore contemplating his playing future and 10-year veteran Frank Gore in a contract year, the San Francisco 49ers may have addressed their future at running back.

The team announced Monday afternoon the signing of Kendall Hunter to a one-year contract extension through the 2015 season.

Hunter, a fourth-round pick of the Niners in 2011 out of Oklahoma State, tore the ACL in his right knee on the second day of training camp this summer. He has played in 43 games and has rushed for 1,202 yards and seven touchdowns on 262 carries.

49ers winning war in trenches

October, 10, 2014
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The key to the San Francisco 49ers regaining their identity as a power-running team?

Of course, you need a running back like Frank Gore. But unless you have an offensive line blowing out a defensive front seven, the point is moot.

The Niners had that dominating O-line last weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs and, the 49ers anticipate, will have it again Monday night at the St. Louis Rams.

[+] EnlargeFrank Gore
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsAgainst the Chiefs, Frank Gore averaged 4.8 yards per carry before first contact with the defense.
Consider: While Gore rushed for 107 yards on 18 carries against Kansas City, only 20 of his yards came after first contact, per ESPN Stats & Information. That means Gore averaged 4.8 yards per carry before he was ever touched by a defensive player (league average is 2.7 yards).

So yeah, the offensive line was blowing out the Chiefs’ defensive line, and Niners fullback Bruce Miller was getting in on the action too.

“I’ve seen something I’ve never seen in football on one of Frank’s long runs, a 15-, 20-yarder where Bruce blocked his man and then Frank ran between Bruce and the defender he was blocking and then came out the other side,” said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. “It was really something to be seen. Almost like those car racers, when they drive through the smoke of an accident. He just went right through it.

“No, he didn’t get touched. He was missing by the narrowest of margins. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a runner run between a blocker and a defender until now.”

Gore has consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time since he had five straight in 2011. Plus, eight of his carries Sunday were outside of the left tackle and they gained 53 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

So yeah, he still has burst. And left tackle Joe Staley, who had a career-high grade of plus-7.3 per PFF, was clearing the way.

“He is playing at the highest level,” Harbaugh said of Gore. “When you look at Frank game after game, he keeps doing it and doing it and doing it. He’s done it and done it and done it. He keeps doing it.”

Kansas City was already giving up chunk runs, but the Chiefs do have an imposing front seven -- on paper.

“Especially against that front,” right guard Alex Boone said when asked how good the Niners’ blocking was against the Chiefs. “Their defense really runs to the ball. It was a good game for us.”

Now they face a Rams defense that is struggling as far as racking up stats. St. Louis is allowing nearly 5 yards per carry and has only one sack through four games.

“That’s deceptive,” Boone said. “They’re a very deceiving team. They can hurt you. We’ve got to shut them down early.”

Or blow them off the line of scrimmage.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Still wondering if the San Francisco 49ers have truly re-established their identity?

Gore
Sure, they want to be multiple in their attack -- who doesn't? -- but in going back to their roots under coach Jim Harbaugh as a power-running team, the Niners were able to control the tempo of the game and hold on for the 22-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Frank Gore carried the ball 18 times for 107 yards and, according to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time he had consecutive games of at least 100 yards since 2011, when he did it in five straight games (between Weeks 4 through 9, with a bye mixed in).

"We some dogs," Gore said with a huge smile. "Our O-line, they played great. We have to give it up to them. Like I said, 49er football, do whatever it takes. We knew that we had to eat up the clock and we did."

Rookie Carlos Hyde added 43 rushing yards on 10 carries and 106 of the 49ers' 171 rushing yards came in the second half.

Per Pro Football Focus, eight of Gore's carries came outside of left tackle, which garnered 53 yards, and eight of Hyde's 10 attempts were between the "A" gaps, up the middle.

"Well, like I said before, we're willing to do whatever it takes," Gore said. "If we have to run the ball, pass the ball, we all are going to fight for each other, and we made plays in both. So, that's a great thing for this team."

The Film Don’t Lie: 49ers

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
11:00
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A weekly look at what the San Francisco 49ers must fix.

Rather than fixing something that is not broken -- as the Niners seemingly did in the first three weeks of the season by changing their offensive identity -- they must stay the course by continuing to pound the ball and stretch their runs against the Kansas City Chiefs, who will roll into Santa Clara this weekend after blowing out the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football."

During the season's first three games, the 49ers floated away from their identity as a smashmouth, power-running team. And they paid for it with a 1-2 start.

In Week 3, they returned to their roots by riding Frank Gore, who rushed for 119 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles, and churning out 218 yards rushing as a team.

And ESPN Stats & Information came up with this nugget: Against the Eagles, the 49ers ran outside of the tackles 14 times and picked up 148 yards, the second-most yards they’ve gained there in a game since at least 2006. And it was the most rushing yards a team has had outside the tackles since the start of the 2013 season.

“This is about us being back to who we are,” Niners right guard Alex Boone said after the game. “Now we have to keep building on it, keep rolling and realize that we have a tough team coming to town in Kansas City. We have to just go out and continue to build on what we have done so far.”

The Chiefs have the 19th-ranked rush defense in the league, giving up 116.5 yards on the ground per game.

49ers find identity on offense

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- For three games, the San Francisco 49ers seemingly flitted about on offense, trying to rediscover their identity and figure out what to do with their new toys while stumbling out to a 1-2 start.

Gore
Sunday, they went back to their roots and ran the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles and, helped out mightily by their defense, the 49ers pounded out a 26-21 victory as a power-running team on the shoulders of running back Frank Gore and the legs of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"It’s who we are and I’m happy to be back to that," right guard Alex Boone said. "That is our identity, and we need to run the ball like that every week. It’s no surprise, and it was a good day for Frank and a good day for the offensive line, and a great day for Kap. A win is a win."

The 49ers rushed for 218 yards, 119 by Gore on 24 carries.

Last week, when he carried the ball only six times for 10 yards at the Arizona Cardinals, Gore was so despondent after the loss that he could not speak to reporters. Later in the week, he took the high road in saying he just wanted to win, regardless of the scheme -- the 49ers used four- and sometimes five-wideout sets in Arizona -- offensive coordinator Greg Roman employs.

Gore took a similar approach after beating the Eagles.

"I just think as a team we’ve got so many weapons," he said. "I think we’ve just got to do whatever it takes. Coach G-Ro calls a pass or a run, we’ve just got to fight for each other and get it done. We’ve got to talk and then do it. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.

"It was a tough game, but a great win. Philly is a great team. With our backs against the wall, it was a must-win."

And, as Boone would say, it was a must to re-establish their identity.

"This is about us being back to who we are,” he said. "Now we have to keep building on it, keep rolling and realize that we have a tough team coming to town in Kansas City. We have to just go out and continue to build on what we have done so far."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s supposed to help forecast the future with more clarity.

So with that in mind, and with the memory of Frank Gore only carrying the ball six times for 10 yards in the San Francisco 49ers’ 23-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals still fresh as the Niners prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles, was Gore underutilized?

“With what [the Cardinals] were doing going into the game, I mean, they were selling out, like, full, waving-the-flag selling out to stop the run,” Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday. “You always want to get Frank involved, but again, you’ve got to kind of weigh how much, when and how. And then you’ve got to factor in everything that you think is going to happen and then everything that is actually happening.”

[+] EnlargeGreg Roman
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuSan Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he will continue to play to his team's strengths and opponents' weaknesses.
Fair enough, but Gore only carried the ball once in the second half – the second play of the half – and the Niners held a 14-6 lead at halftime.

“So, you got to be fluid with it,” Roman continued. “I think, for example last week, we had a plan that was different than the one we utilized early in the game and the other plan was working pretty good. So, shoot, we’re not getting to that other plan. And that’s pretty much every week, to be honest with you.”

Against the Eagles, and especially with tight ends Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald potentially healthy enough to play and right tackle Anthony Davis possibly making his season debut after offseason shoulder surgery and a troublesome left hamstring in the early weeks of the season, the Niners would be wise to revert to form with their power running game to better keep the Eagles’ high-powered offense of the field, right?

“Well, I definitely think that those guys are guys that you have to factor into the equation,” Roman said. “And whenever they do come back, things tilt certain ways and you always want to work to your strengths or away from their weaknesses, or away from your weaknesses or at their weaknesses.”

And while Gore put on his best face earlier in the week to say he was good with whatever game plan came his way, as long as it helped the team win, there are questions.

Such as, can a team switch its identity on the fly and continue to be successful, or does it create problems?

“Not really. You go back to two years ago, the playoffs, we were basically a spread team,” Roman said. “We played the Packers and Atlanta. And you can run spread concepts out of any personnel group; that’s what most people don’t quite get.

“But no, it really doesn’t [cause problems]. It’s all about the players. Who do you have, what are their strengths?”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Frank Gore tried to his best to hide his disappointment in the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room Wednesday afternoon. A veteran in his 10th season, he knows better than to lash out at teammates, coaches and game plans.

Gore
And yet, it’s obvious something is amiss with him as the Niners’ offensive identity went from a power running game behind Gore to a somewhat gimmicky spread-type offense last weekend against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I just feel that we, I just feel that we just have to, for me, I just feel that whatever works, I’m with it,” Gore said. “If it’s passing, it’s passing. We pass the ball. If it’s running, we run.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win, and if we’ve got to go out there and do the spread again, I’m with it. That’s what type of player I am. I just want to win.”

Except it did not work against the Cardinals. Sure, showing sets with four and five receivers caught Arizona off guard and the Niners were able to get out to a 14-6 halftime lead.

But in the second half, when it seemingly should have been Gore Time to maintain the lead, he only touched the ball once. On the second play of the second half. That’s it.

Gore finished with six carries for 10 yards. And in the first half, it was rookie Carlos Hyde who had his number called for a 6-yard touchdown run.

“Frank’s not someone that needs his spirits to be kept up,” said quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “I always talk to him regardless of what’s going on, but he’s going to come and give his best effort every week and he’s shown that.”

As a team, the Niners rushed for 82 yards, 54 by Kaepernick. The 49ers passed the ball 37 times, and Kaepernick’s 29 completions were a career-high.

“Whatever the coaches feel is going to help us win, I’m with it,” Gore said.

Surely, against the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend, Gore has to be confident that he’ll be a bigger part of the offense to keep the Eagles’ high-octane offense off the field, right?

Said coach Jim Harbaugh: “I would see no reason why he wouldn’t be confident in that regard.”

Frank Gore: 'I can't talk right now'

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers 23-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium:
  • Gore
    Amid a stunned and silent locker room, running back Frank Gore, the 49ers’ longest-tenured position player, had little to say after the loss. He paused for up to 10 seconds between questions before offering no answers. Finally, he waved off the media horde and said, "I can’t talk right now. Sorry." Then he buried his head in his hands. Gore had 10 yards rushing on six carries, and rookie Carlos Hyde carried the ball three times for 13 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown.
  • Receiver Anquan Boldin owned his unnecessary roughness penalty for head-butting Cardinals strong safety Tony Jefferson (Boldin got away with a similar action in the playoffs the past season against Carolina’s Mike Mitchell), but was quite steamed at the disparity and timing of penalties -- San Francisco was flagged nine times for 107 yards; the Cardinals drew five flags for 36 yards. "If you look at it, it’s unbelievable," he said. "We’ll send the tape into the league, and they’ll say, 'We made a mistake.' But [Arizona] got 30 yards down the field (on those calls), and some were coming at crucial times ... if you’re going to call it, call it both ways." Boldin can probably expect a FedEx folder with a letter for a fine at his locker this week.
  • Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, again rocking his big-lens sunglasses inside, shifted his stance again in the wake of a report that he used the "N-word" last week, which got him a penalty for "inappropriate language" and a fine of $11,025. After saying last week, "I didn’t say anything," he said he did not say anything "racially deragotory" to Lamarr Houston. Pressed on the issue, Kaepernick then said, "I talk on the football field -- yes, I do." It cast a pall over an already dour locker room.
Nursing a 10-point lead and having driven from their own 10-yard line to the Chicago Bears' 6-yard line on the opening drive of the second half Sunday night, the San Francisco 49ers suddenly went conservative.

Three straight runs netted the Niners nothing after Frank Gore gained one yard, Carlos Hyde lost two and Gore again picked up one.

Forced to kick a 24-yard field goal, the 49ers left four points on the field after holding onto the ball for more than nine minutes and taking a 20-7 lead. They would not score again, though, and they would fall to the Bears, 28-20.

"When you're up like that," Gore said after the game, "you've got to go for the kill. We let them get back into the game. We didn't finish and they beat us."

Heading into Sunday's showdown at the Arizona Cardinals, you have to wonder if the 49ers will be more aggressive if they face a similar situation.

"Could we have called a different play?" coach Jim Harbaugh mused Monday.

"'Oh, you ran a running play.' It didn't work. 'Could you have used a different play and that could have worked?' Yeah, we'd love to go back and try the different play now. But, that's in all these situations when you look back -- one worked, one didn't. Sure you'd like to try the other, but you're not in that position."

The Cardinals, who are 2-0 with victories over the San Diego Chargers at home and at the New York Giants, will just have to wait and see how aggressive or conservative the Niners will be on Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore joined an elite club in Sunday's 28-17 season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Yes, we already know he became the 29th member of the 10,000-yard rushing club. But more than that, Gore is just the 10th player to rush for that many yards while playing at least 10 seasons with one team.

[+] EnlargeFrank Gore
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsIn his 10th season -- all with the San Francisco 49ers -- running back Frank Gore is on pace to add to his more than 10,000 career rushing yards.
The others?

Try Emmitt Smith (Dallas Cowboys), Walter Payton (Chicago Bears), Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions), Tony Dorsett (Cowboys), Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers), Thurman Thomas (Buffalo Bills), Fred Taylor (Jacksonville Jaguars), Jerome Bettis (Steelers) and Tiki Barber (New York Giants).

All but Taylor, Bettis and Barber are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though Bettis is a four-time finalist for enshrinement in Canton. So it begs the question -- is Gore worthy of Hall of Fame discussion?

Or is it too soon to bring up the topic?

Consider: Bettis, who rushed for 13,662 yards in his career as a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, went out on top with a Super Bowl ring while Barber was a three-time Pro Bowler, and one-time All-Pro and Taylor went to one Pro Bowl.

Gore, a five-time Pro Bowler with 10,033 career rushing yards who has been to the playoffs the past three seasons after being shut out the first six years of his career, has yet to win a rushing title, or be part of a Super Bowl championship team. Besides, a more hearty Canton case for a 49ers running back might first be made for Roger Craig.

Plus, Gore is 31 years old and his best days may be behind him, but he still has some run left in him.

"There's no shelf life for football players," said coach Jim Harbaugh. "And that's something I learned at an early age from my mom -- never to believe in expiration dates. She taught us that very early -- pay no attention to the expiration date on that can or that milk or that bread.

"Now, maybe she was just trying to get things at a lesser cost. Learned that very well. There is no expiration date. Even if the bread had a little mold on it, brush it off or cut it off and eat the other part, but we're not throwing it away. We're not throwing away good food or drink."

Or football players that can still contribute and, presumably, continue to build a case for Canton while helping a team that's been to three straight NFC title games finally break through to get the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy in 20 years.

Because with the 49ers currently having just two tailbacks on the roster in Gore and rookie Carlos Hyde -- LaMichael James went through waivers unclaimed on Tuesday, a day after requesting and being granted his release from the Niners while unhappy about a lack of playing time -- it's obvious San Francisco still has faith in Gore.

And that's just fine with him. After all, it was his 5-yard pickup off right tackle on third-and-3 that sealed the 49ers' victory over the Cowboys.

"That's me; I'm a very smart runner," he said, unapologetically. "I've got good feet and great vision. I know my alignments. You see different movement on the defensive line, and you know where they're going.

"That's just me being me."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick’s salary cap-friendly contract extension was constructed that way, in part, to help free up money for the San Francisco 49ers to lock up other key cogs on the roster.

But with right guard Alex Boone’s holdout waged on, the 49ers quarterback was asked if he would like for some of that money to go to Boone.

“I think that’s something that the front office, that’s their decision,” Kaepernick said. “For me, I tried to do something where we gave them space to be able to get players back now. Who they sign and what they do with it is really up to them.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh would not touch the topic.

“As always, we don’t talk about contracts publically,” Harbaugh said. “Rarely do we talk about it in any form or fashion. We don’t feel it’s in anybody’s best interest to do that.”

While starters like running back Frank Gore, receiver Michael Crabtree, left guard Mike Iupati and cornerback Chris Culliver are entering contract years, Boone was signed to a four-year extension on Dec. 8, 2011, that runs through the 2015 season. Boone did not take part in any of the team's offseason activities and is subject to a $30,000 a day fine, per CSNBayArea.com.

The 49ers have more than $8.2 million in salary-cap space, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Frank Gore will report for his 10th training camp with the San Francisco 49ers this week.

Gore
This milestone accomplishment needs to be celebrated in San Francisco. There are no guarantees Gore will be in a 49ers’ uniform next season. If not, he has already has staked his claim as one of the best skill-position players in the team’s rich offensive history.

In today’s NFL running backs rarely make it to their 10th season, especially with one team. But Gore is not your typical running back. At a time when the running back is being devalued in many systems, the 49ers still rely heavily on the run game. In fact, they are one of the few teams that are still a run-first offense.

But that doesn’t mean Gore will be around for the long haul. Looking at the cold facts, there are some signs that Gore could be entering his final season with the 49ers.

He is 31, which is ancient for a running back, and entering the final season of his contract. The 49ers clearly are looking toward the future at the position. They took the injured but talented Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of last year’s draft. They selected a falling Carlos Hyde -- the Ohio State product widely considered the best running back available in the draft -- with the No. 57 overall pick in May. While Lattimore will be eased back to health, Hyde, who looked terrific in the offseason, has a chance to get carries right away.

It’s only natural for the 49ers to think about the future. Of course, that doesn’t mean Gore’s future is dead with the 49ers.

[+] EnlargeSan Francisco's Frank Gore
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesFrank Gore didn't look over-the-hill last season, as he ran for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns on 276 carries at age 30.
They clearly are interested in Gore being a key member of the team in 2014. The 49ers are scheduled to pay him $6.4 million this season. They could have asked Gore to take a pay cut. They didn’t. Teams don’t give away that kind of money to players in today's salary cap-dominated NFL. Gore is being paid well because the 49ers have plans for him.

And if you listen to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh -- an unabashed Gore follower -- this season might not necessarily be the end of the line for Gore in San Francisco. When asked last month if he talked to Gore about his future plans, Harbaugh said: “You know how I feel about it. I feel like Frank is still at the top of his game. I have even made the comment very clearly, that I think he has three great years of football left in him. That’s his mindset as well.”

In keeping with his low-prolife approach, Gore has been mostly quiet this offseason. The 49ers have kept him out of most of the offseason, but that's not a signal they don't plan on featuring him. It’s all about saving one of their best veteran players. Also, the 49ers know they can count on Gore. There’s no doubting that.

“People always ask me (if Gore surprises him). There’s nothing Frank does that surprises me,” San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said this offseason. “I’ve never met an individual -- a player, a coach, anybody -- that’s been around the game of football that is as passionate about the game as Frank Gore. That’s what drives him. So nothing he does surprises us.”

Look for Gore in Year 10 to still be the guy the 49ers look for in the clutch, the guy who seems to punch through the hole when the 49ers need it most. But I can also see Gore's load being reduced, even if its done subtly.

Think of what the Broncos did with Knowshon Moreno last year. He had the first 1,000-yard rushing campaign of his career, but by the end of the season, Denver was consistently working in second-year back Montee Ball. Now, Moreno is with the Dolphins and Ball is the starter in the Broncos' backfield.

Gore, like Moreno, didn’t show signs of slowing down at the age of 30 last season. He had 276 carries, third most in his career. If Hyde and Lattimore are factors this season (and the 49ers can utilize their new receiving weapons), perhaps Gore’s load will drop to the 200-carry range.

He can still be effective. He’s Frank Gore. He’s always effective.

“Frank is the best, it’s that simple,” Lattimore said. “He is so good at so many different things, and that will not change. Of course, I want to be a factor, but Frank is always going to be a factor as long as he is here. He’s Frank.”
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.

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