The San Francisco 49ers are making a significant transition at the running back position in 2015, with Frank Gore officially out the door. Carlos Hyde is expected to take over the start role, with Reggie Bush, Kendall Hunter and Mike Davis all competing for various opportunities behind Hyde.
It is easy to pine for the days of Gore, but Hyde brings a physicality that could make for quite the grinding rushing attack. Football Outsiders released their broken tackle rate statistic for 2014, and Hyde ranks highly. Although Hyde only had 95 total touches (rushes and receptions), he had 21 broken tackles, which ranked 25th among running backs. That is a 22.1 percent broken tackle rate, which ranked ranked fourth in the league behind Marshawn Lynch (27.8% on 317 touches), Ahmad Bradshaw (25.8% on 128 touches) and Roy Helu (25.6% on 82 touches).
It is not at all surprising to see Lynch top the list. Frank Gore on the other hand, ranked fairly low. Gore had 19 broken tackles on 266 touches, which comes out to 7.1 percent. One of Gore's primary skill as a ball carrier is his ability to find holes in the smallest of spaces. However, he generally has not been particularly great at breaking tackles. In 2012, he finished with a 9.4 percent broken tackle rate, with 27 broken tackles. That is a high for him in recent years. He had 10 broken tackles in 2010, 11 in 2011 and 15 in 2013. He's still been an effective running back at times, but this shows more about the value of finding holes in the defense.
Breaking tackles is only one aspect of a running back's arsenal. That being said, we've seen what Marshawn Lynch can do as he wears down opposing defenses. I'm certainly not saying Hyde is going to become Lynch, but he could bring even more physicality to the position. And with complementary options behind him, he can still remain somewhat fresh. There could be plenty of problems for the 49ers in 2015, but I am optimistic about the ground game.