The San Francisco 49ers head into the 2016 season with intriguing depth at running back, but some questions as to who will be doing what. Carlos Hyde is coming off his first season as a starter, but it was cut short due to a foot injury that cost him the final nine games.
During the NFL Combine, Trent Baalke said Hyde was making progress, but that he was not quite game ready. Three months later, it sounds like he is good to go. Head coach Chip Kelly was on KNBR Friday morning, and he got a question about Hyde's status:
Carlos is a stud. He's been full-go since we started in the beginning of April. Participated in everything. And he's as advertised. To have someone that size that is that agile, has that vision, it's really impressive to see him work every day. There have been no restrictions on him at all. He's full clear, 100 percent, and he's going. He's really good, we're really excited about him.
There are plenty of offensive questions to be answered, and how the 49ers will use their running backs is high on that list. Carlos Hyde is the No. 1, and even with the new coaching staff, that seems pretty set. However, the question becomes what will the rest of the running back depth chart look like, and how much work will they get.
In Chip Kelly's first two seasons with the Eagles, LeSean McCoy was the work horse. He rushed 314 and 312 times the first two years, which were good for 62 percent and 65 percent of total carries. In 2015, the Eagles dealt away McCoy, and signed DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. Murray led the team in rushes with 193 carries, which was good for 43 percent of the total carries. Ryan Mathews had 106 carries, which was good for 24 percent of the carries.
Will we see Hyde in more of the Shady McCoy numbers, or will we see someone get extra work behind him? Hyde had 115 carries in seven games last season as a starter. Over a full season that projects out to 262 carries. I've included an over/under poll to see what people think will happen this year. Whether you think injury will be an issue, or you think Chip Kelly will rotate his running backs, what do you think about that over/under of 250 carries?
For comparison's sake, over his final four seasons with the 49ers, Frank Gore had 282, 258, 276, and 255 carries. He played in all 16 games all four years. He started all but one of those games, coming on in relief in one game in 2011 following an injury the previous week.
The 49ers added Kelvin Taylor in the draft, and bring back Mike Davis, Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, and Jarryd Hayne. That's a lot of backs competing for work, two of whom were solid starters in limited opportunities last season.