The San Francisco 49ers will look to answer a variety of questions this fall, and one of them is the running back production. The 49ers are moving on from the most prolific running back in franchise history, as Frank Gore will spend 2015 (and beyond?) with the Indianapolis Colts.
The 49ers will head into the coming season with Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Kendall Hunter and Mike Davis as the primary backs in the rotation. Jarryd Hayne and Kendall Gaskins will compete for opportunities in training camp, but some combination of Hyde, Bush, Hunter and Davis is what we will see a whole lot of in 2015.
Monday morning, NFL.com put together rankings of all 32 running back depth charts. It is no surprise that the Philadelphia Eagles topped the list. The additions of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews give them as much depth as anybody across the league. Well, as much depth as one can have in June. They were followed in the top five by the Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael), Minnesota Vikings (AP, McKinnon, Asiata), New Orleans Saints (Mark Ingram, C.J Spiller, Khiry Robinson) and Pittsburgh Steelers (Le'Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, Dri Archer).
The San Francisco 49ers are listed at No. 17. They included a brief comment on the group:
"I'm a big believer in Hyde," Jeremiah said of the 49ers back. "I like him a lot coming out. I think I had him in the 20s in my top 50 board, so I thought he was a first-round back and I think he's really going to run with this opportunity, but it will be interesting to see how they carve up the carries."
Bush got the first team running back carries throughout the offseason workout program. Hyde missed a significant portion of on-field work due to a leg injury. He returned for minicamp, but even then, Bush was still getting the touches. The general belief is that it was mostly just given the incoming veteran some respect. I don't expect Bush to be the primary guy between the tackles on first and second down, but I do think the 49ers will get plenty of work out of him.
With Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, the returning Kendall Hunter and the rookie Mike Davis, I do think there is the potential for something special. They bring a variety of skill-sets, which could put the 49ers in position to the most diverse rushing attack they've had in some time. Of course, this also depends on several potential issues:
1. Offensive line - there is significant turnover. While Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis were not all that great pass blocking, they were serious road-graders when it came to run blocking. This is the area that is most likely to slow down this offense.
2. Injuries - Bush has dealt with a variety of injuries over the years, and Hunter is coming off a torn ACL last year, and a torn Achilles the year before.
3. Game planning - I am least concerned about this right now. We can't really assess the game plan until we see this team on the field. I suppose we can't assess the first two all that much yet, but given Trent Baalke and Jim Tomsula's repeated references to running the ball, this ranks third on this list.
Offseason position rankings are nothing more than discussion fodder at this point. But this group does have some talent. If the offensive line comes together and this unit remains healthy, I do think the sky's the limit for them. But much like several other groups, it does depend on things coming together. Such is the life of the 2015 San Francisco 49ers.