The San Francisco 49ers brought in several running backs to challenge Carlos Hyde. Tim Hightower signed as a veteran free agent, the team drafted Joe Williams and traded for Kapri Bibbs during the draft, and they subsequently signed Matt Breida. Hightower, Williams, and Breida are the three most viewed as potential challengers to Hyde’s playing time, and it seems like Hightower is getting the early look.
Kevin Jones and Grant Cohn have both written about Hightower finding success in the outside zone run that is a staple of Kyle Shanahan’s running game. On Monday, both writers noted that Hightower got the first snap of practice with the first team offense. There is no word on how the split of carries worked the rest of practice, but it will be worth a watch during today’s practice.
Cohn noted on Sunday that Hightower’s prior work with Shanahan in Washington and subsequent experience in this type of scheme has him running confident and decisively. He has more experience in it than Hyde, Williams, or Breida, so this seems like a logical extension. Shanahan has mentioned how Hightower is a pros pro, so one would expect him to have the most confidence given his experience running outside zone.
Does this mean he is going to supplant Hyde on the depth chart? Anything is possible under the new coaching staff, and with Hyde entering his final season, nothing would surprise me with the backfield. However, I also think Hyde has time to gain the necessary confidence and decisiveness. A slimmed down body with some improved speed will certainly help, but it is going to take reps more than anything at this point.
I have a feeling we are going to see more complementary running back work than a clear bell-cow running back. I’m still not sure how that rotation will shake out, and we likely won’t know for certain until Week 1. I’ve included a poll below (if you can’t see it in AMP or Apple news, reopen the article in your mobile browser). Assuming all players are healthy, who has the most carries when the 49ers face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16? This is a combination of who wins the job, and who potentially gets cut or traded. Factor in anything you want, but the assumption is if the player is on the roster at that point, he is healthy.
Assuming all are healthy, who will have the most carries for the 49ers in Week 16 this season?
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