San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde continues to produce decent enough numbers, with 14 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans. But there is one this he’s done all year that he didn’t do against Houston: catch a pass.
Hyde has caught at least one pass in each game this season, but he didn’t catch his one target in Week 14. One target is also an anomaly, as Hyde has received at least three targets in all but two games this season — Sunday’s outing against the Texans and the Oct. 8 game against the Indianapolis Colts.
On top of that, Hyde has a total of 79 targets on the season, catching 52 of the passes for 307 yards. He ranks 41st in the league overall when it comes to targets, tied with the number of balls thrown to Michael Crabtree of the Oakland Raiders. Only Le’Veon Bell (92) and Christian McCaffrey (94) have more targets as running backs.
Despite being ranked so highly in targets, Hyde isn’t in the top three when it comes to receiving yards among running backs. Hyde ranks below 13 other running backs in receiving yardage. He’s averaging 3.8 yards per target and 5.9 yards per reception.
Kyle Shanahan runs an offense that emphasizes running backs in the passing game. That’s why the team has given Kyle Juszczyk a decent-sized contract, and why Hyde has seen so many targets. But those targets haven’t turned him into one of the top receiving backs in the league.
Running back targets are down overall since Jimmy Garoppolo took over. He seems to prefer the big-bodied tight ends. Matt Breida also didn’t see a target, and only saw one against the Chicago Bears.
When taking a look at the pass protection and Garoppolo under pressure, one trend I noticed was his tendency to eschew the underneath option. Garoppolo has great touch on his passes and has dropped the ball in over the head of a linebacker several times in limited starting opportunities. But he’s also been intercepted and nearly intercepted on similar plays.
On some of those occasions, he’s throwing to Garrett Celek, a big-bodied guy who can and has gone up to get contested passes. On most of those occasions, there is a running back open underneath. Garoppolo hasn’t been interested in going to that running back, and I think it’s because he has more of a “boom or bust” quality to him.
He hasn’t developed a reputation as a “gunslinger” just yet, but for now, he seems to be favoring the more risky throws. As for Hyde, I think his averages are high enough to consider him the starter moving forward, especially with ample cap space. Teams around the league are finding starting-caliber running backs all over the NFL Draft, but it’s not something to count on. I’d be surprised if the 49ers move on from Hyde, even if his stats aren’t anywhere overly impressive through two games with Garoppolo under center.