The San Francisco 49ers preseason opener also marked the NFL debut of running back Carlos Hyde. On Thursday, I asked what people were hoping to see from Hyde in his first NFL action. It's safe to say the 49ers second round pick did not disappoint.
Hyde got the start in place of Frank Gore, who will see few if any carries this preseason. On the day, Hyde rushed 5 times for 39 yards. He showed some solid burst, some strength, and solid work in blitz pick-up. It was only one game, and only a handful of touches, but all in all, not too bad.
Hyde appeared in the 49ers first two drives. On the first drive, Hyde got the first touch of the game, rushing for seven yards. It turns out, he knew for 24 hours that he was going to get the first touch of the game. Given his rookie status, I can only imagine what it was like waiting for that first carry. Had that been me, I might have gone crazy thinking through every possible outcome.
Hyde's first run came up the middle, but his next two for 19 yards and 8 yards came on outside runs. He is more of a physical runner, but he showed some solid burst hitting the edge on those runs. He got a great block from Bruce Miller on the 19-yard run, and a Kap pump fake got the right OLB to bite a bit, but Hyde still made things happen as well.
After those two runs, the 49ers had 2nd and 2 on the Ravens 7, and they proceeded to bring in Jewel Hampton on back-to-back runs. Hampton was stopped on both runs. The first run saw him cut outside and he could not get to the edge. The second run saw him go up the middle, but Joe Looney and Daniel Kilgore could not stop their defenders. But even still, I'm surprised the 49ers did not give Hyde a chance to finish off a strong first drive.
On the second 49ers drive, Hyde got a pair of runs for five yards, but then showed some solid skill in blitz pick-up. He picked up C.J. Mosley coming up the middle, giving Blaine Gabbert just enough time to get his pass off.
It's easy to get overly excited about Hyde, even after only one game in which he saw limited work. He's going to get more work as the preseason moves along, so even with fairly vanilla game-planning, we'll get a decent idea of what he brings to the table. Blitz pick-up remains the most important thing for him to get consistent playing time, so if he can continue improving in that area, he will be well on his way to solid playing time. Kendall Hunter's 112 carries in 2011 remain the most of any backup to Frank Gore. If Hyde can build on what we saw today, there's no reason to think he can't exceed that in his own rookie season.