The San Francisco 49ers head into Week 8 of the NFL season with a 5-2 record, one game ahead of the division rival Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers play on Monday night against those Cardinals in a tough NFC West battle.
At this point in the season, I can confidently say that the best player on the 49ers is Frank Gore.
He is off to a great start this year, running hard and efficiently. Through seven games, Gore has carried the ball 103 times for 601 yards and four touchdowns. His 5.8 yards-per-carry average would be a career high if he were to maintain it through the rest of the season.
Gore is also fourth on the team in receptions, with 15. He has gained 110 yards on those catches, and five of those have resulted in first downs.
The 49er offense has struggled from time to time, but Gore has been the one constant. He is the heart and soul of the offense and is playing at a level unseen in recent years from any 49er offensive player.
What makes this even more amazing is that Gore is now in his eighth NFL season at the age of 29. This is a time when most running backs are slowing down, but Gore shows no signs of easing up.
San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh has eased some of the load off of Gore, as Kendall Hunter is getting his share of playing time in the backfield. Hunter has 50 carries for 258 yards and has also been very effective.
A lot of the credit for the success of the 49ers rushing attack goes to the team's offensive line. Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis have consistently opened holes for Gore and Hunter to run through.
The 49ers offensive line is a very big, physical group that excels at run-blocking. It does sometimes have trouble in pass protection, but it has extremely powerful run-blockers.
As one of the longest-tenured 49ers, Gore is also a team leader. He is not a rah-rah, outwardly vocal player, preferring to lead by example and work ethic. His work ethic does not go unnoticed by his teammates, and that is very inspiring.
In addition, whenever Gore does speak up, his words carry a lot of weight, as his teammates know he would not be saying much unless he deemed it truly appropriate.
Gore is the 49ers' best player at this point in the season, not only because of his performance on the field, but also the respect he has earned from every member of the organization.