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Is Matt Breida a starter if Carlos Hyde leaves in free agency?

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It’s possible Carlos Hyde will leave in free agency. Is Breida enough to roll with?

Jacksonville Jaguars v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida was an undrafted rookie who quickly took over the role of primary backup to Carlos Hyde. I didn’t even get to see enough of him to form a real opinion by the time he was starting to get sizable carries in place of Hyde.

On the season, Breida carried the ball 105 times for 465 yards and two touchdowns. In front of him, Hyde carried the ball 240 times for 940 yards and eight touchdowns. Hyde had a per-carry average of 3.9 yards while Breida ran for 4.4 yards per-carry.

Breida really picked up speed over the final two games of the regular season. He carried the ball 11 times for 74 yards and a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Against the Los Angeles Rams, he carried the ball 12 times for 72 yards.

I also thought that Breida ran a lot harder down the stretch. He was running into and over guys, displaying many of the same characteristics as Hyde. He’s not quite as strong, but he does take very sharp cuts, something that Hyde has struggled with this season.

Hyde is going to hit the open market, and I expect there will be plenty of interest there. He’s said that he wants to return to San Francisco, and sounded enthusiastic enough about the possibility that I imagine there’s a chance he’ll take a little less money to remain with the 49ers.

Breida never saw more than 12 carries in a single game as a rookie. We won’t know about his potential durability as a starter until he sees more playing time than that. Whatever the case, I think he’s out-performed expectations, and I’m interested to see where things go from here.

The 49ers also have Joe Williams, who was not undrafted and who went on injured reserve early in the season.