49ers review: Running backs

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49ers review: Running backs

This is the eighth installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.The 49ers finally got some help for Frank Gore. For the first time since 2005, the team had two running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts. The 49ers got good production from Gore and change-of-pace back Kendall Hunter, as they combined for 1,684 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Gore was selected for the NFC Pro Bowl team, but did not want to play after the 49ers lost in the NFC Championship. He was excused from the game for "medical reasons." Grade: B
Frank Gore -- He played in all 16 games for the second time in his seven-year career and posted the second-highest rushing total of his career with 1,211 yards. But it's not as if Gore was healthy the entire season. He had ankle and knee injuries that limited him in some games. After a slow start to the season, Gore had a five-game stretch in which he rushed for 127, 125, 141, 134 and 107 yards. Over his final eight games (123 rushing attempts), Gore averaged 3.5 yards an attempt. But, then, in the playoffs he was very effective. He gained 163 yards on 29 rushing attempts (5.6 average). And after catching just 17 passes in the regular season, Gore caught 13 passes for 83 yards in the two playoff games. And if Gore wasn't healthy, why did he play 84 percent of the team's offensive snaps in the playoffs? There were times when Gore took himself out of the game after run plays. That shouldn't be too alarming. After all, when he's on the field, he was either running the ball, going out on a pass route or blocking a bigger man in pass protection. Gore turns 29 in May. The 49ers' all-time leading rusher is at that stage when most running backs begin to slow down dramatically.Kendall Hunter -- He won the job as the No. 2 back with a strong training camp. After playing just six snaps total in the first two games, Hunter got on the field for his first extended play time when Gore was hobbled with an ankle sprain. Hunter performed well, so he began seeing more playing time when Gore was healthy, too. He supplied a lift for the 49ers offense with 473 yards rushing on 112 attempts (4.2-yard average) and another 195 yards receiving. In the playoffs, Hunter saw limited time. He had 10 rushing attempts for 54 yards.Bruce Miller -- The converted college defensive end did not play any snaps on offense in the first two games. But when veteran fullback Moran Norris was injured, Miller stepped into the lineup and never relinquished the starting role. Miller showed good versatility, as he caught 11 passes for 83 yards. He should continue to get better on offense while being one of the 49ers' core special teams players for a few years.
Anthony Dixon -- The 49ers brought in three veteran running backs for tryouts in early October to light a fire under Dixon, who told CSNBayArea.com during that time that coach Jim Harbaugh "challenged me to get my attitude back in check." Dixon carried 29 times for 87 yards (3.0 average). When Gore checked out of the NFC Championship, Dixon was entrusted with two important carries in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants. He gained 3 yards on a second-and-4, and then was stopped for no gain on a third-and-1 situation. Dixon has plenty of talent, but the 49ers will definitely try to bolster this position to supply Dixon with competition.Moran Norris -- He started the first two games of the season at fullback, but he lost his job when he sustained a fractured left fibula. Norris was inactive for 11 games total, did not play in another and saw limited time in a couple other games. The 11-year veteran is scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Gerald Hodges is in search of a new team and he's looking at a division rival of the 49ers.

The unrestricted free agent is scheduled to visit the Seahawks on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Acquired in October of 2015 from Minnesota for a sixth-round pick, the four-year pro played in 25 games over the past two seasons with the 49ers.

In his time with San Francisco, the former fourth-round pick recorded three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

But he was not considered a fit for the new 49ers under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Hodges was deactivated for a game late in the season at Atlanta for breaking team rules. He did not offer an explanation or apology

The 49ers have signed three linebackers through two weeks of free agency: Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle and Dekoda Watson.

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

On the same day the FBI director announced members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are under investigation for colluding with Russia to influence the election, Trump turned his thoughts to Colin Kaepernick’s status as an NFL free agent.

And Jim Harbaugh, appearing on Pro Football Talk, suggested teams that are not showing interest in Kaepernick are making a mistake.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them: I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player,” Harbaugh said Tuesday morning.

“He’ll have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”

On Monday evening, during a rally in Kentucky, Trump made remarks about Kaepernick. In the lead-up to the November election, Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist” and said he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

“And you know, your San Francisco quarterback? I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” Trump said.

“There was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that. I said if I remember that one I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky. Because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.”

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reported an AFC general manager told him there were three reasons Kaepernick has not signed. Some believe, according to the anonymous source, that Kaepernick can no longer play at a high level. Others “genuinely hate him” for kneeling during the national anthem as part of his protest of racial inequality in America.

And, “some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him,” according to the report. “They think there might be protests or Trump will tweet about the team. I'd say that number is around 10 percent. Then there's another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.”

Kaepernick’s teammates voted him the winner of the Len Eshmont Award for courage and inspiration last season. It is historically the most prestigious award among 49ers players. But the 49ers have already signed veteran quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

General manager John Lynch acknowledged last week on KNBR the odds of the 49ers bringing back Kaepernick are slim.

“I think the likelihood of that happening has gone down significantly. But we’re not going to close our mind or out options on anyone, including him,” Lynch said.

Even though there has been no reported interest in Kaepernick from any team around the league, Lynch said Kaepernick nearly signed with a team earlier during the free-agent signing period.

“I don’t know what happened to that market,” Lynch said. “He was, in everyone’s mind in this league, very close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number. And it fell through, apparently.”