Niners Live is back with another hitter, and this time, like many others, we’re going deep from an interpersonal point of view. There is a new kid in the 49ers backfield and he’s catching the attention of the 49ers coaching staff and fans alike. In a heated competition to make the cut, 49ers running back Matt Breida is letting the chips fall off his shoulders as they may.
The 5’11”, 190 lb. RB out of Georgia Southern University is looking to make his presence felt in the National Football League this season. In his college career, Breida amassed 3,740 yards and 37 touchdowns while averaging an impressive 6.9 yards per carry. In his freshman and sophomore season in 2014-2015, he led the nation in yards per carry at 7.6 and 8.68 respectively. However, after a to-be desired year in 2016 accounting for only 646 yards, Breida was denied an invite to a college all-star game, which led to him being passed over for an opportunity to participate in the NFL scouting combine.
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“I believe a lot of teams looked at my last year and didn’t look at my previous two years,” Breida said (via the team’s website). “They looked at my last season because I had only 600 yards rushing. But they didn’t dig in deep to see why, so I came in with a chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove to everybody that I belonged in the NFL.”
“I’m a guy who is going to get the job done,” he began. “I’m not selfish. I’ll play anywhere on the field – special teams, fullback, wide receiver, etc. I’m a speed runner, but I also like to run physical. I pride myself in 3rd-and-1 situations when the game is on the line, and we’ve got to get the first down. I want the guys to know that they can count on me to make the big plays for them.”
Important to note: Breida’s 3.61 yards after contact per attempt in 2015 ranked eighth out of 51 qualifying running backs, just below Leonard Fournette (3.65) and ahead of top 2016 prospects Ezekiel Elliott (3.54) and Derrick Henry (3.38) (profootballfocus).
That adversity did not deter Breida as he showed his resiliency and took full advantage by putting together an outstanding pro day by running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, posting a 42-inch vertical jump, an 11-foot-2 broad jump and 23 reps on the bench press. Breida’s performance opened the eyes of scouts around the league, eventually leading to a call from the 49ers for an opportunity to fight for a roster spot on one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. “I knew that they wanted me here, and I knew that I had a shot at playing.”
Making the most of the opportunity
Breida has surely impressed and is setting the bar for the running backs this season. I guess it’s no surprise that ESPN Insider Adam Schefter, on a fantasy football podcast, proclaimed the UDFA as a sleeper that is going to make the team. As mentioned in our Right 53 part two featuring the offense, Breida was the best rookie on the field during minicamp, and has continued to make his mark as he was afforded more opportunities. In his first official preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Breida played the most snaps of any of the 49er running backs, accounting for 40 yards on 11 carries averaging 3.6 yards per attempt with 25 yards coming after contact. He forced six missed tackles and ran with sheer grit, passion and determination every time his number was called. After sitting out week two against the Denver Broncos, he then followed that up week three against the Minnesota Vikings leading the charge once again with seven carries for 29 yards averaging 4.1 yards per attempt and one reception for five yards making his mark running between the tackles. “A lot of my long runs from Georgia Southern came from up the middle – my power runs, inside zone. So, I love running up the middle actually more than I do outside.”
Matt Breida lets the chips fall off his shoulders as they may
“We wanted to give him a chance. He’s done a good job,” Shanahan said of Breida. “We wanted to see him out there as little bit earlier in the game, especially against a good defense like Minnesota. I thought he did a good job. I thought the other guys did too. We’ve got some tough decisions here to make at running back, but we’re going to let it all play out. We definitely need this game on Thursday to see the other guys too. They’ve all made it real tough on us.” (49ers.com).
What the 2017 season will bring
It’s pretty much solidified that Breida will be part of the roster in 2017. The more important question is, how much of a role he will have and how effective he will be going forward into the regular season. As for now, the 49ers will surely be able to use his toughness and physical running style to pick up those tough yards on 3rd and short and goal line opportunities. Breida, however, believes he could be a three down back, but he knows he must show improvement on his pass protection before he is crowned and given that type of opportunity. The 49ers Faithful sure hopes Matt can be the first of a new breed of runner (no pun intended) and solidify himself as a future star in the making.
Interesting things to watch out for moving forward
Matt Breida was the second back in the pecking order rotation behind the incumbent starting tail back Carlos Hyde this past Sunday night against the Vikings.
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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, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co- Author, Content Creator, Editor Sequoia Sims.