Despite establishing himself as the alpha dog from the start of training camp and being the most consistent threat on offense this season, the days of Carlos Hyde remaining in a 49ers uniform next season are all but over. Niners Live looks at how Matt Breida will lead a revamped backfield that fits more in the mold of the offense designed by Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and Running attack directed by Bobby Turner.
Listen to me when I say this: If the San Francisco 49ers are truly ridding themselves of all things that were touched by Trent Baalke, then the Carlos Hyde era at running back is truly over after the 2017 season. Try as he might and despite having a career-high 9 catches for 84 yards against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, “El Guapo” does not fit the mold of Kyle Shanahan’s style of running back. Hyde specializes in hitting the hole straight across, while Shanahan prefers a running back that can stop on a dime and change direction almost instinctively. It’s not that Hyde’s style is archaic, he just has never been and never will be that type of running back. Frank Gore was that type and so is Hyde’s understudy, Matt Breida.
Matt Breida, aka Mr. He-Gone, is much smoother catching passes out of the backfield, a fact that was evident during the first 5 games of the season. Catching passes out of the backfield is an absolute must in the Shanahan run offense. While his style of running has not yet produced the same results as Hyde, he has shown flashes of brilliance with his cutback style, when Hyde was simply stopped in the backfield. Most importantly, while this style of the offense depends on a balance of running and passing plays, Hyde is the type of back that needs 20-30 carries a game, which is not a reality in this type of offense. The ability to block on passing downs is equally important and Breida has shown an ability to do this, while Hyde has never excelled at this; not as a 49er, nor in his time at Ohio State.
As Niners Live has mentioned throughout this season, Shanahan wants a running game similar to the one he designed for the Atlanta Falcons during his time as Offensive Coordinator the two previous seasons. That system employs a running back by committee approach designed to wear out the defense by keeping the running backs fresh at all times, posing a threat to run and or catch out of the backfield. So who are the candidates to join Matt Breida in 2018?
Raheem Mostert – Nicknamed Mos Def, he was thought to be strictly a special teams player, but he showed a propensity to run with aggression in the preseason and has an ability to catch the ball effectively.
Joe Williams – He was thought to be the one to replace Carlos Hyde this season, but that never materialized as he has spent the season on injured reserve. Being the running back that Coach Shanahan swore by gives him a legitimate shot of making the squad next season.
Jeremy McNichols – Of all the running backs mentioned thus far, it is McNichols, currently on the p-squad, whom most resembles Devonta Freeman of the Falcons. The Boise State alum has power and pass-catching acumen that makes linebackers cringe, as he looks to deliver punishment after the catch.
One name to watch is San Diego State running back Rashaan Penny. Shanahan does not like to draft a running back in the first two rounds, which eliminates Saquon Barkley of Penn State and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Rashaan Penny possesses the same style as Breida in terms of catching the ball out of the backfield, but is bigger than Breida and cannot only cut back, but with his strength, he has proven it’s harder to bring him down.
The 49ers are not above trying to bring a free agent running back in that fits the mold of Shanahan’s style of offense. However, and this cannot be stressed enough; the days of the one-dimensional running back are over. Anyone that joins Matt Breida in this committee of running backs must have these three traits:
- The ability to hit the hole and change direction
- Be able to block would be pass rushers with consistency
- Be a consistent pass-catching option
When it comes to the backfield of the 2018 San Francisco 49ers, there can be no exceptions.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims