The San Francisco 49ers began filling out their practice squad on Sunday, and have made one notable addition outside the organization. The team announced on Monday they have signed rookie running back Jeremy McNichols.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived McNichols as part of final roster cuts. McNichols had a rough preseason, rushing for 79 yards on 24 carries, and grabbing zero receptions. The Buccaneers spent a fifth round pick on McNichols, but by all accounts he has struggled in pass protection and learning the offense. Bucs Nation editor Sander Philipse had this to say about him:
McNichols is an explosive back with potential in a receiving role, but has a lot of work to do on his pass protection. He'd be useful as a change-of-pace back, too, but hasn't shown the ability to get yardage inside and carry a running game.
Bucs ESPN writer Jenna Laine chatted with him after the preseason finale, at which point it was clear he might not make the roster. He talked about being humbled after having tremendous success at Boise State. After a quiet freshman season with 159 rushing yards, he rushed for 1,337 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015, and then 1,709 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2016. This past year he also added 37 receptions for 474 yards.
Bucs management is unsure why he struggled, with GM Jason Licht describing him in May as having rare hands, and being one of the best running back pass protectors in the draft. And yet, he was benched after giving up a sack in the third preseason game.
The 49ers head into the 2017 season with Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert as their three running backs. Given Hyde’s injury history, it is entirely possible at least one more running back spends time on the roster this season, if not more. McNichols is joining a team that has a strong running backs coach in Bobby Turner. Given his and Kyle Shanahan’s success in developing big production from late round running backs, he would seem to be joining an ideal situation.