Brandon Jacobs

Jacobs, new 49ers running back, wants to punish opponents

Published: Friday, May. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 27, 2012 - 2:19 pm

SANTA CLARA – When Brandon Jacobs dreams of the upcoming season, he envisions shoulder pads crunching, helmets cracking and defensive linemen giving ground along the line of scrimmage.

"We want to make it terrible for (opponents)," Jacobs, the new 49ers running back, said Thursday. "We want to make it so that they wake up on game day and not want to go to work. That's what we plan on doing – running in there and really making teams feel it.

"That's what I want to do. And I haven't really been able to do that the way the game has evolved. I was kind of excluded a lot in the way that we played (in New York)."

It's a rugged, throwback scenario fitting for a 6-foot-4, 264-pound running back.

Jacobs said he began to feel out of place on his former team, the Giants, who are among the vanguard in a league that increasingly has stressed the passing game. The Giants threw 589 times last season, sixth most in the NFL.

Jacobs, who had 1,000-yard seasons in 2007 and 2008, carried the ball 152 times in 2011 for 571 yards (3.8 average).

It's only natural, then, that Jacobs this offseason landed as a free agent with the 49ers, one of the few teams that still adhere – last season, at least – to a might-is-right philosophy. San Francisco was third in the league in rushing attempts in 2011 and 31st in pass attempts. Only the Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos threw less.

For the past six seasons, the job of tormenting opposing defenses has fallen to Frank Gore, who has been the 49ers' featured running back since replacing Kevan Barlow in 2006.

One of the biggest questions for the upcoming season is how a team that has leaned heavily on Gore in recent seasons will distribute the football after beefing up at both running back and wide receiver in the offseason.

In addition to Jacobs and Gore, the 49ers have Kendall Hunter, who had 112 carries and two touchdowns last season, and drafted Oregon running back La-Michael James in the second round.

The 49ers also brought in three wide receivers in Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins. And while San Francisco is unlikely to rival the Giants, New Orleans Saints or Green Bay Packers in pass attempts this season, the offense is expected to open up in coach Jim Harbaugh's second year on the job.

Gore said this week that he was happy to have Jacobs and others join the team. But he also said he didn't think there would be any big changes in how carries are divided and wasn't concerned about it.

"I'm not at all," he said. "As long as I'm healthy and in great shape, and ready to play, I'm going to be the Frank Gore I've always been."

Jacobs, meanwhile, was part of a committee approach in New York in recent seasons. He said as long as the 49ers are running the ball consistently, having extra runners can help a featured tailback like Gore, who turned 29 this month and who was nicked and hobbled for much of the 2011 season.

Jacobs also is 29, but he said felt quicker – and younger – than he has in years, something he attributed to resuming squat lifts upon joining the 49ers. The big running back said he hadn't done squats in six previous seasons for fear that he would put too much stress on his knees.

"My legs already feel a lot stronger," he said. "I'm stronger, I'm more explosive, I'm hitting the hole. I'm just ready to go."

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