Big changes are coming to the San Francisco 49ers with a shake-up on the coaching staff, and surely that will translate to some big changes on the roster when the new person in charge takes over. But one player that will definitely be a big, big part of that new coach's plans is running back Carlos Hyde.
He finished this season on injured reserve, but we saw plenty from him to understand that he can be the feature running back going forward, and possibly for a long time if injuries aren't a theme for him. But the picture behind Hyde isn't clear, and Sunday's finale against the St. Louis Rams didn't do much to help the situation.
What it did do was put DuJuan Harris clearly in a place where he will get a chance to play somewhere, again, next season. Before that, Shaun Draughn made a convincing case for a roster spot on top of that. The 49ers signed both backs out of necessity, beginning the season with Reggie Bush, Jarryd Hayne and rookie Mike Davis.
But now I'm thinking Harris and possibly Draughn have a shot at really competing next season.
On Sunday, Harris led the way for the 49ers, carrying the ball 16 times for 67 yards. He had some big runs and looked good with the ball. Davis, returning from short-term injured reserve, had just 10 carries for 34 yards.
Draughn carried the ball 76 times for 263 yards and a touchdown before he himself sustained an injury. Davis came into the game with 25 carries for 24 yards, a per-carry average of 1.0 yards. He didn't look at all like he was ready to be a running back in the NFL and I wouldn't be surprised if he's out of the picture sooner rather than later.
At this point, Harris is the most interesting. He's been in the league since 2011, when he played in five games with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also played for the Green Bay Packers and most recently, the Seattle Seahawks. He was undrafted out of Troy and did very little with the above teams.
He's 27 years old and will be 28 when next season gets underway. I don't think he's going to amount to a game-changing running back, but it sure does seem like he might fit the bill of a reliable running back to be a backup for Hyde.