Since entering the league in 2010, Anthony Davis had been among the NFL’s best run blockers. After his sudden retirement Friday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers offense would seem to have suffered a major blow.
Though the 49ers spent much of their offseason resources bolstering the passing attack, the success of the team has and will continue to be dependent on the run. And despite his reputation as a road-grading run-blocking offensive lineman, San Francisco is confident that the team’s ground attack will not suffer without the 25-year-old Davis.
Head coach Jim Tomsula feels that the loss of the right tackle will have little effect on the team at all:
“I don’t think it’s a huge blow to this team, I wouldn’t categorize it that way. We’ve got some guys ready to do some really good things. We’re really excited about the guys we have here.”
In 2009, the 49er rushing attack struggled to maintain success, finishing outside of the Top 10 in the league with 4.3 yards per rush (12th) and 100 yards per game (25th). With two Top-20 picks in the 2010 draft, San Francisco selected two offensive linemen – Davis and guard Mike Iupati. Since then, the run game has been among the NFL’s elite, finishing in the top five in both categories each of the past three seasons.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the running game would struggle without Iupati —who signed with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason – and now Davis. But Tomsula and his depth chart’s top two running backs contend otherwise.
Projected starting running back Carlos Hyde was surprised to hear of Davis’ retirement, asking if the report was “for real,” but then asserted that his team would be able to rebound from the loss:
“This is the NFL, man. Everyone is out here because they can play.”
With Hyde playing second fiddle to the franchise’s all-time leading rusher Frank Gore, the 49ers finished the season fourth-best in both yards per carry (4.6) and yards per game (136) a season ago. Providing proof to Hyde’s notion, with health problems sidelining Davis for more than half the season, the ground attack remained as healthy as ever.
First-year 49er running back Reggie Bush, whose game relies much more on the outside run at which Davis has excelled, said he didn’t think the retirement would have a toll on him or his backfield mates:
“It doesn’t make it any tougher on the running backs. Not at all.”
Bush’s confidence was echoed by Tomsula, who, despite losing both star linemen and Gore – who signed with the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason – feels his roster is capable of recovering:
“If you look at the things we’ve done here, personnel-wise, we’re very prepared.”
When asked about the recovery process, nine-year veteran Bush told SFBay:
“We’ve got a lot of good guys here. Some young guys that are going to work hard and prepare themselves for a great season. We’ll be alright. We’ll be good.”