The San Francisco 49ers will see an overhaul to their offense this season, as Chip Kelly looks to revitalize a unit that was pretty awful in 2015. Kelly has said it will be somewhat like what he has done in the past, and you can learn more about that in David Neumann's extensive Eagles film breakdown.
Assuming Chip Kelly provides some continuation from his previous offenses, one thing we can expect to see is the offense facing more nickel defenses. PFF writer Mike Clay put together a thorough breakdown of the kinds of defensive packages running backs faced in 2015. He broke it up into number of defensive backs on the field, to give us an idea of how big or small the defense might otherwise be. This is just one piece of the puzzle, but it is an interesting piece.
Last season, Carlos Hyde faced four or fewer defensive backs on the field 86 percent of the time he ran the ball. That means he was facing nickel and dime defenses 14 percent of the time. That was the second highest percentage of base defense, behind only Antonio Andrews. For comparison's sake, the year before, Frank Gore faced four or fewer defensive backs 83 percent of the time. That was fourth highest in 2014.
Chip Kelly running backs faced a whole lot more defensive backs in comparison. In 2015, Eagles running backs faced five or more defensive backs on 82 percent of carries. In two seasons, Carlos Hyde has averaged 5.1 yards per carry against nickel defenses. The big issue will be staying healthy after that foot injury, but it will be interesting to see how he does facing a lot more nickel and dime defense, compared to the excess of base defense he faced in 2015.