The San Francisco 49ers offensive line has been the subject of plenty of discussion regarding quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers QB has struggled in his own right, but he has not gotten much help from a line that is still trying to get on the same page. While the focus is on the quarterback, we can also look at the running game to see how much that line is struggling.
On Wednesday, David Neumann broke down the 49ers offense through the first four games. One telling stat he noted was that, according to Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus, 49ers running backs are averaging 1.0 yards per carry before contact. Only 11 of 53 running backs with at least 20 carries this season fall below that figure. To give this a little more context, the 49ers are fourth in the NFL in highest percentage of runs with backfield contact:
Highest % of runs with backfield contact after Wk4: 1. PHI: 42.7% 2. SL: 37.1% 3. DET: 32.3% 4. SF: 28.6% 5. ATL: 27.5%— Ben Stockwell (@PFF_Ben) October 6, 2015
If this was Anthony Dixon back in the day, this kind of thing might be influenced by a dancing running back. He improved on that over time, but dancing in the backfield is going to have some impact. However, for Carlos Hyde, it is often a matter of the offensive line getting handily beaten at the point of attack. PFF ranks him No. 1 in the NFL in their elusive rating. This comes courtesy of forcing 19 missed tackles. PFF also charts him with 3.24 yards per carry after initial contact. That is second only to Chris Ivory, who has 3.27.
Here is one quick sort-of example of Hyde's elusivity:
Hyde gains eight yards here: pic.twitter.com/inQWFUv1BO— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) October 8, 2015
Frank Gore dealt with stacked boxes frequently during his 49ers career, but he also often had a strong offensive line in front of him. Right now, Hyde is dealing with stacked boxes AND a shaky line. He is still in the top ten in rushing yards, but that comes due primarily to his huge Week 1 performance. Since rushing for 168 yards in Week 1, he has rushed for 114 combined in the ensuing three games. If the 49ers offensive line and the passing game do not get on track, he is going to be running into brick walls fairly frequently this season.