Not Enough Touches
October 18 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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The 49ers have made it their purpose this season to get Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow the ball on a near equal basis. The result has been the two alternating series, and usually recording between 10-15 carries a game each. All that is fine and good considering that the team is rushing for over 150 yards total each week, but there are some weaknesses to the theory as well.
Itís a well know theory that a running back gets stronger towards the end of the game. This is usually because the defense gets slower, and so alternating the backs should really make Hearst and Barlow that much better when they do get the ball later in the game. What isnít taken into account here, is that one of the reasons the running back appears stronger is also that he has had an opportunity to set up the defense for certain moves heíll use later in the game. It works the same with nearly every position on the field - and by limiting the caries of the backs, it limits their ability to set up the defense for such situations.
The other issue arises is that sometimes neither back is having success with the limited carries, yet the 49ers continue to alternate them. The team should not worry about giving one back 20 caries and the other 10, or even a greater differential if one is producing better than the other. On the same note, if one is doing a better job receiving or pass blocking the team should not insist on using the other back in those situations just because itís his turn in the rotation.
The 49ers have worked the running back tandem quite successfully so far, but they should not be afraid to tweak it a little - because the system isnít perfect yet. By continuing to adjust the team can avoid falling into pits in their run game, like what happened on Monday night when Jeff Garcia lead the team in rushing. Simply put, that should never happen, or Garcia could end up missing some serious play time after taking a bad hit.