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Kyle Shanahan and Carlos Hyde are turning Carlos Hyde into a beast

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Things are coming together nicely for the 49ers running back.

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San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde has always been a tough, physical runner who dominates opponents after initial contact. The physical style can lead to injuries, but while on the field, there are few running backs that offer his level of toughness. Now that Kyle Shanahan, Bobby Turner, and their zone blocking scheme are in the picture, Hyde has a chance to take his game to a new level.

Over the past 2+ seasons as a starter, Hyde has regularly been among the NFL’s leaders in yards after initial contact. Pro Football Focus is one of several sites that tracks that information, and they have ranked Hyde 6th and 7th in yards after contact each of the last two years for running backs with a minimum of 100 carries. This year, Hyde ranks fifth with 3.13 yards after contact.

On Thursday, I came across an interesting statistic. According to PFF, Hyde currently leads the NFL with 3.90 yards before first contact. That means he is nearly four yards down the field before running backs make contact with him. By comparison, in 2016 he averaged 1.50 yards before first contact, and in 2015 he averaged 1.30 yards before first contact. Hyde is currently averaging 7.0 yards per carry, so that 3.90 and 3.13 adds up. Only Kareem Hunt is averaging more yards per carry.

The injury bug is going to remain an issue until he stays healthy all 16 games. But if he stays healthy, it is so incredibly tantalizing what he might do in this offense. The drastic change in yards before first contact is significant. He’s getting over two more yards right off the bat. I don’t know if he can maintain such a high number, but when you’re averaging seven yards per carry, even a slight dip to five yards per carry means you’re still doing big things.

Hyde did not get a lot of carries in Week 1, but even then he was averaging five yards per touch. Matt Breida proved to be a strong complement in Week 2, and will remain a valuable piece of the puzzle. But if Hyde can stay on the field, he will be absolutely critical to an offense still searching for something in the passing game.