Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
A new regime puts everyone on notice and considering the 49ers have already turned over half of last years 90-man roster, it is certainly the case with running back Carlos Hyde. General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan have made it clear the decision will come from assessment and competition. There are no locks at any positions at this point.
Since the departure of 49ers all-time leading rusher Frank Gore in 2015, Hyde has been the the team’s primary back each of the last two seasons. But with a new head coach comes new expectations. And, Carlos Hyde is aware of the situation.
In addition to Hyde and Raheem Mostert, the 49ers added depth to the running back position in the offseason. San Francisco brought in veteran free agent Tim Hightower, acquired Kapri Bibbs in a draft-day trade with the Denver Broncos, drafted Joe Williams in the fourth round and signed Matt Breida as an undrafted free agent.
This is what Carlos Hyde had to say when asked about the crowded backfield:
“I feel that there’s more competition in the room now. (RB coach) Bobby (Turner) stresses it every day that he wants guys in the room competing. Any one of those guys can go in and be a starter. That just pushes me to take my game to the next level, because I want to be the starter. Every guy in that room wants to be the starter. So, it’s going to help everybody out. It’s going to benefit all of us.”
Over the years, Shanahan had good success with running backs, most recently, with Atlanta Falcons tandem Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Hyde is learning Shanahan’s system and with competition — it gives any player a chance to thrive.
While there have been many hot takes that Hyde does not fit the new system, it does not preclude Shanahan to ability to platoon several backs in his system.
Age: 25 (26 on Septemer 20)
Experience: 3 accrued seasons
Weight: 235 lbs
He’s entering the last season of his rookie contract. According to Over The Cap, he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $822,047, with $249,396 prorated from his signing bonus, and a $100,000 workout bonus. This creates a cap hit of $1,171,443.
Why he might improve in 2017
The added competition has lit a fire under Hyde. Although Hyde posted career-highs in 2016 with 217 carries for 988 yards and six touchdown, now he'll have to impress Turner. He needs to be the back who separates himself from the others.
“He’s doing an outstanding job. But again, I’m not surprised,” Turner said of Hyde. “He’s eager. Eager to learn. And at this point in time, he’s doing a good job.”
In Shanahan’s offense, it is not unusual for him to use a tandem of backs to confuse defenses. In this case, if Hyde can execute Shanahan’s outside zone runs, he could be a monster of a player. Consider that Hyde ended up gaining positive yardage 12.9% of the time on would-be backfield tackles (the highest in the NFL last season). It is not unreasonable to conclude Hyde could capitalize on larger gaps and bigger lanes over the course of the season. Combined with the speedy backs likely to gain roster spots, Hyde won’t have to bear the brunt of being the every down back and has a better chance of staying healthy.
Why he might regress in 2017
Hyde missed 14 games in the last three years due to injury. Hyde unfortunately was a victim of poor run blocking with Pro Football Focus ranking the 49ers offensive line No. 28 last season. Furthermore, staying healthy will be significant to Hyde this season.
Finally, the rumor that Joe Williams could unseat Hyde is certainly a possibility, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. If the injuries continue, it could provide the window for Williams to excel.
Odds of making the roster
Hyde will make the roster and will likely start day one of the season. However, as the season progresses and depending on his ability to pick up Shanahan’s style of play, he could see limited downs. It will be a wait and see game until the 49ers make their final decision.