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Does it make sense for Carlos Hyde to be a pure workhorse back?

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The 49ers added depth at running back in Tim Hightower, Joe Williams, and Matt Breida. Now we wait and see how much work they get behind Carlos Hyde.

NFL Network is running segments this offseason focusing on players to watch for each team. Earlier this week, they got around to the San Francisco 49ers, and they said Carlos Hyde is the guy to watch in 2017.

The big point of emphasis in the video was whether or not Hyde can stay healthy this season. He is a big bruising back, but he has inflicted plenty of damage on his own body as much as others. He started seven games in 2015, and 13 games in 2016. It was certainly an improvement last season, but the issue remains a concern.

The 49ers added veteran Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs, and rookies Joe Williams and Matt Breida this offseason. Hightower is likely to be a regular complementary option to Hyde, and Williams and Breida will have plenty to compete for as well.

If Hyde does stay healthy, it will be interesting to see just how much work he gets. Hyde had just over 16 carries and just over 18 total touches per game. In the video, they mention Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson as workhorses and ask if Hyde can become that kind of back where the offense rides him out. I get the comparison they’re trying to make, but the numbers are a bit off. They talk about a 30-carry back, but that really does not exist that much anymore. Elliott had 30 carries in one game last season, and Johnson had 33 in one game. For the season, Johnson averaged just over 21 carries per game (just over 23 total touches), and Johnson averaged just over 19 carries per game (24 total touches) if we subtract out his eight touch season finale in which he got limited work.

Last season, Hyde’s highest carries total was 22 against the Arizona Cardinals, with six receptions. The 30 number is kind of arbitrary, particularly in this day and age of complementary players, but the issue is just how busy will Hyde be. Hightower averaged ten touches per game last season, and I suspect we see something similar with him in games where Hyde is healthy. The question then becomes how Joe Williams and/or Matt Breida work into the mix this season. Preseason probably won’t give us much in the way of answers to this question, so we’ll wait and see what Week 1 brings.