49ers fullback Moran Norris was out of his boot on Monday after suffering a fractured fibula. Jim Harbaugh chose to keep 2 fullbacks on his roster this season Norris and rookie Bruce Miller unusual in today’s NFL. The move made sense given that Miller a college defensive end was moving to the offensive side of the ball for the first time in his life. Norris the long time best friend of running back Frank Gore is a one dimensional player now at best, a straight ahead short yardage blocking back. Norris has no speed whatsoever and can no longer be counted on to get to the 2nd level of the defense fast enough to help the ball carrier at all past the line of scrimmage. Essentially with Norris in the lineup your best case scenario is your RB going at a minimum of 1 linebacker without a lead blocker after getting past the line. In other words he isn’t a guy that helps you gain big chunks of yardage on a single carry, which the 49ers have done a lot of since he has been out of the lineup. To put it bluntly the guy kills big plays and isn’t very good for the running game.
Rookie Bruce Miller has done a fantastic job in his transition to FB this season. He has shown that he can not only get to the 2nd level much faster than the elder Norris helping seal off those LBs so the ball carrier can get into the 3rd level of the defense with big runs. Miller also gives them other things Norris never had by proving to be a effective receiver out of the backfield and with superior athleticism he’s better running after the catch and carrying the football himself also.
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But the 49ers employ a lot of power rushing in their scheme and sometimes they want someone that is a little bigger than Miller and better at that straight ahead power blocking like Norris. Even with that considered Norris is not worth the roster spot, they have done a fine job with nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga in that spot. Sopoaga has played the position very well and I would contend is also faster and more athletic than Norris. With Sopoaga out vs. Tampa Bay the 49ers used a combination of tight end Vernon Davis and offensive lineman Adam Snyder in that role and it worked out just fine.
The 49ers are thin at outside linebacker with only 3 on the roster Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson and Aldon Smith who has played about 98% of his downs as a defensive end. Haralson suffered a stinger vs. Detroit and while it is not considered serious the team is paper thin at the position. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio recently admitted that he didn’t know how Smith would do if asked to play OLB during meaningful time in a game for a long stretch. That gives the 49ers only 2 players ready to play OLB on a regular basis. Could Navarro Bowman or even Patrick Willis make the switch in the middle of a game during an emergency? Probably but the team should take a hard look at adding a player at OLB and cut this over the hill one dimensional waste of roster space named Moran Norris. The team stayed pat during the trade deadline after showing interest in receiver Brandon Lloyd, the team should look to sign someone like Everett Brown who was released by the Panthers recently.
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