San Francisco 49ers fans got a pleasant surprise on Saturday, as running back and return man Jarryd Hayne flashed big play ability against the Houston Texans. Hayne caught the eye of the league with a 53-yard run on his second touch of the game. He followed that up with a pair of punts for 29 yards and a 33-yard kick return. We could not have asked for a whole lot more in his first every game of professional football.
The hype has gone into overdrive, and Jim Tomsula is trying to temper expectations, at least a little bit. He spoke with the media via conference call on Sunday, and was asked about Hayne's performance. He acknowledged he is a world class athlete who can do great things in space, but he also discussed where Hayne will need to improve moving forward.
Well, for me, with Jarryd, number one, he's got the same, he's got everything, he can build off of just like everybody else on the team. Everybody's got something to build off of. So we're definitely looking for the big growth to be from Week 1 to Week 2. That's where I'm looking to see, Week 1 to Week 2, then 2 to 3. After that, after Week 3, you've got an idea where it is, and you're running out of time. So, we want to see the growth between these two games. But Jarryd did a nice job, he did. I mean, you saw it, and I guess Janie, I'm not as shocked or, I don't know what the word is, that Jarryd was able to field punts and run, or field kicks and run, or that Jarryd was able to see creases and take them, and then get into the open field and avoid. i've seen him do all those things. I watched a lot of film on Jarryd Hayne playing rugby, so I understand, him in space. The things that excite me, the things that we gotta stay on, is when you get into those tighter quarters, and seeing those little creases. You know, that's where the improvement is. That's where he just has to keep working. Not that he's bad at it, Janie, he's not, but we just got to keep improving there. I just like to temper everything. We don't need to put undue things on Jarryd's, undue expectations, it's unnecessary to me to put that on his plate right now. I just want him to stay focused on getting better. Guy's a world class athlete, he's played professional sports for what, 7, 8, 9 years.
The big thing that Tomsula brings up is Hayne's ability in smaller spaces. He says he knew Hayne was great in open space, but the next step is getting into "tighter quarters" and finding the holes. Frank Gore might be the greatest running back in history when it came to seeing those tiny holes and bursting through. There are greater overall running backs in NFL history, but I don't recall seeing another who could squeeze through a hole that seemed to be the size of a quarter.
I only reference Gore because of how good he was at that. Hayne showed some solid vision on some shorter runs, including a conversion for a first down. When the 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys this weekend, that will be the thing to watch. It would not surprise me if the 49ers try and mix him in further in the between-the-tackles game. That sparkling debut likely has most of the other 31 teams keeping a closer eye on Hayne. Even if he does not show much improvement, that might have been enough to get him claimed off waivers if the 49ers were to cut him at the end of the preseason.
Hayne does seem to recognize that it was just one game, and there is room for improvement. He posted to Instagram, with this message:
First taste of the NFL and it couldn't of gone any better. Excited just to be given the opportunity at the @49ers I'm old n wise enough to not get carried away with 1 game. I've also learned to embrace every moment of life n the experiences that come my way
2 Corinthians 5:7 for we live by faith and not by sight. We have Lift off in Houstan! First taste of the NFL and it couldn't of gone any better. Excited just to be given the opportunity at the @49ers I'm old n wise enough to not get carried away with 1 game. I've also learned to embrace every moment of life n the experiences that come my way. It's so overwhelming the support I've received back in the Southern Hemisphere from Australia to Fiji to the pacific islands, NZ n so on. Thank you :) #GIG #TheBegging