Brandon Jacobs says he hadn't done a squat in six years. This astounds me.
After all, Jacobs is a running back, and you would think that of all the positions groups, running backs would concentrate on building up their legs the most. What's more, he's 6-4, 264 pounds. His game is built on intimidation and power. You'd think he'd want to accentuate that as much as possible. You'd think that he'd be squatzilla.
He hasn't been. Jacobs said the concern when he was with the Giants was that squats - the most basic of all thigh- and butt-building exercises -- wouldn't be good for his knees, so he didn't do them.
But when he arrived with the 49ers, the trainers identified quickness and burst as a shortcoming in his game. Indeed, the critique in New York in recent seasons was that Jacobs has the size and appearance of the ultimate power runner but didn't hit the hole like one and was tripped up in the backfield too often. The 49ers prescribed a regimen of squats, and Jacobs says he notices a difference after only two months.
"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."
Jacobs said he's slimmer than he was in New York, but he weighs the same. That's due to the muscle he's built up since joining the 49ers, he said. Jacobs turns 30 in July, but he says he's faster than he's been in years.
With Jacobs, fellow newcomer LaMichael James and incumbents Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon, the 49ers easily have the deepest backfield they've had in years. You also could say that about their wide-receiving corps, which added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins. In today's Bee I wrote how distributing the ball among this group is one of the biggest questions and challenges the 49ers will have this year.
It also will be interesting to see whether the 49ers alter their offensive style in 2012. Last year only one team - the Broncos - threw the ball less than the 49ers and only two teams ran the ball more. Indeed, that throwback style is why Jacobs feels at home in San Francisco. While the rest of the league, including the Giants, has gone pass happy, the 49ers have maintained a more traditional balance - 489 rushing attempts to 451 passing attempts in 2011.
The question is whether that ratio swings in the other direction in 2012.
-- Matt Barrows