The San Francisco 49ers struggled to figure out what to do with Jarryd Hayne in 2015, but I have to think things could get at least a little more interesting with head coach Chip Kelly. The recently hired coach met with 49ers beat writers on Thursday, and had a chance to briefly comment on Hayne. Here's what he said, courtesy of Matt Maiocco:
"I think it's pretty amazing just because I know how difficult this game is, and to not have any background in it and then to be able to play at its highest level is really a credit to him in terms of what type of athlete he is," Kelly said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"He's one of those guys, you get really excited to see what he can do and what type of jump he can make in Year 2 with a better understanding of how the game is played. But he certainly has a skillset that's intriguing."
I think plenty of us can agree that Hayne has an intriguing skillset. He showed a lot in training camp and the preseason last year, but his opportunities were limited in the regular season. Early ball control issues cost him, and he spent much of the season on the practice squad. He eventually returned to the roster, and will get another shot this year.
General manager Trent Baalke was also asked about Hayne, on Wednesday:
"It was quite a learning experience for him, going from Australian Rules Football to the National Football League. If you'd ask him, he'll tell you his eyes got open pretty quick, especially when you go from preseason games to regular-season games, the difference in tempo and everything that goes with that. He learned a lot, did some good things for us and we expect him to come back and have a better feel for the game."
James Brady wrote earlier this month about Jim Tomsula's lack of interest in multi-year projects. Nobody claimed Hayne off waivers, and there is no indication he was approached to sign off the 49ers practice squad. That is certainly one sign he was not ready for the NFL, but teams can often be risk-averse to a project like Hayne. Whatever the case, with a year under his belt, it is going to be interesting to see how Kelly looks to work him into the offense. He very well might be cut again at the end of training camp, but his ability to work in space is going to be something to track in Kelly's offense this fall.