With the loss of star wide receiver Michael Crabtree already leaving the 49ers thinner in offensive explosiveness, LaMichael James went down with a sprained MCL in his left knee Thursday night in a preseason match-up against San Diego.
James was expected to help shoulder the load with starter and perennial pro-bowler Frank Gore, but those plans will have to be put on hold, at least for the first month of the season.
The versatile Kendall Hunter will resume his role as the number 2 back after returning from a torn Achilles’ tendon in 2012. After Hunter, the 49ers have Anthony Dixon and Jewell Hampton to fill out the depth chart until James is able to return.
With the loss of LaMichael James, the situation at punt returner becomes a bit murky as well. James had been receiving reps as the primary returner but now those duties will most likely fall in to the hands of wide receiver Kyle Williams. Williams has not played in the preseason after recovering from ACL surgery but with his experience returning kicks he would seem to be the front runner to take over in the interim.
The 49ers open September 8th at Candlestick Park and face the divisional rival Seattle Seahawks week 2 at CenturyLink in Seattle.