Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in–90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we’ll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we’ll have more than one so it’s not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it’s worked so far. Who am I to argue?
Carlos Hyde made 49ers fans hearts go aflutter in 2014. During his rookie campaign, Hyde often looked like he was shot out of a cannon. His first big run in the NFL showed fans two things: burst, and a nose for contact.
Coming from a Urban Meyer’s zone-based running scheme, Hyde was a perfect compliment to Frank Gore. While Gore would exhibit ungodly patience to find any little crease on power runs, Hyde countered with a one-cut upfield style that left many a defender in his wake. According to Pro Football Focus, Hyde forced 25 missed tackles on just 83 carries for a missed tackle rate of 30.1 percent. That rate put Hyde in Marshawn Lynch territory for missed tackle rate (31.4 percent).
Hyde looked primed to be the heir apparent to Frank Gore, and as it turns out, 2015 is his time to prove that he can carry the workload.
Why he might improve
The most difficult transition for a young running back is pass protection. While Hyde definitely can improve his recognition, he wasn’t a schlub. His pass blocking efficiency per Pro Football Focus was better than Knile Davis, Alfred Morris, and Arian Foster. Combining a year of experience and another year of tutelage under Tom Rathman and you can bet Hyde will improve his pass blocking skills in 2015.
But perhaps the most exciting potentiality in 2015 is the matching of scheme and talent. Hyde is very much a one-cut zone runner. His first touchdown against Dallas came out of the Veer, the 49ers preferred option play. I like this play because it shows how well Hyde understands the Veer. The run is designed to attack the strong side of the offensive formation, but Hyde sees the backside opening up and knows that Jeremy Mincey (number 92) has to respect the Kaepernick option. Hyde takes advantage of hesitation, puts his foot in the ground, and takes off.
(Thanks to James Brady for the GIF wizardry)
There are more and more rumblings that the 49ers are going to include more zone-based blocking. The coaches are familiar with the scheme. The zone was Steve Loagn’s base run when he was the head coach at Eastern Carolina, and Geep Chryst was the tight ends coach in Carolina during the switch to the zone-read schemes.
With more of an emphasis on zone blocking Hyde can go back to his comfort zone. As it is, Hyde was pretty consistent in 2014 and getting him more runs in his more comfortable scheme will only help the second-year back. Coupled with Hyde’s ability to break tackles at a rate closer to Marshawn Lynch and you could have a recipe for a breakout season.
Why he might regress
While I certainly appreciate the whole "taping a cheetah to your back" running style, Hyde sometimes didn’t capitalize on some runs due to a lack of patience. Arian Foster is one of the best zone running backs because he patiently waits for the holes to develop before exploding through them. If Hyde doesn’t express a little more patience, he could constantly run into the back of his lineman instead of consistently gaining positive yardage.
Then you have the Reggie Bush factor. We have no clue if the Tomsula-led staff will express the same preference for playing veterans over untested players. They certainly brought Bush in for a reason, though. It could be the team just wanted more of a pass catching back, but contrary to his rep Bush isn’t an effective receiver out of the backfield. Anytime you take reps away from a back not named Jamaal Charles, you limit his ability to produce.
Odds of making the roster
Pretty damn good. The question with Hyde seems to be not if he makes the roster, but whether he becomes a featured back or one part of a larger running back rotation.