The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have risen to the top of the NFL and are largely considered to be the class of the league going into 2014. In addition to playing strong defense, each team relies heavily on the running game to move the ball, which has put the brunt of the work on two very important players.
Both Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch have been the center pieces of their respective offenses and averaged over 270 carries the past three regular seasons. When looking at the trend for backs who have fallen into this category, the following year has not been kind to them.
Below is a look at four brand names who saw their production fall in 2013 after three straight years of heavy workloads:
|Ray Rice||Carries||Yards||Yards Per Carry|
|Steven Jackson||Carries||Yards||Yards Per Carry|
|Arian Foster||Carries||Yards||Yards Per Carry|
In each of the examples above, the players listed missed significant time due to injuries or, in the case of Rice, played through an injury that greatly affected his performance. With both Gore and Lynch entering similar territory in 2014, will this trend hold true?
Here is a look at the last three seasons for Gore and Lynch:
|Frank Gore||Carries||Yards||Yards Per Carry|
|Marshawn Lynch||Carries||Yards||Yards Per Carry|
In addition to a lot of miles during the regular campaign, both backs have also gone through deep playoff runs recently. Gore, who has played 56 total games from 2011-2013, has amassed 956 carries and actually seen his regular and postseason total increase each season.
This could be the reason Gore struggled in the 2013 playoffs, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. The 49ers will work to limit his touches in 2014, but they have to hope Gore can stay healthy through another gauntlet that could see him playing upwords of 18-19 games. San Francisco is deep at running back with Kendall Hunter, Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore all in the mix for touches.
As for Lynch, he’s carried the ball 1,002 times over 53 games the past three years. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run, but it’s inevitable that he will feel the result of that workload sooner rather than later.
Lynch wants a new contract and it was rumored that he might retire if he didn’t get one. Given the tread on his tires and the looming contract extension for Russell Wilson, it’s unlikely Seattle would invest heavily in the 28-year old.
The Seahawks will look for ways to get the explosive Christine Michael involved, and Robert Turbin will see work on passing downs. Should Lynch get hurt or falter, a committee approach would most likely be implemented.
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