The San Francisco 49ers are getting into the thick of 2018’s training camp and one thing has been consistent: The running backs have looked good. Notice this is multiple, Jerick McKinnon has turned on the jets and shown his speed and Matt Breida has been turning heads in camp as well. Joe Williams even mustered up some good stuff, breaking out a 65-yard TD run, though it wasn’t in pads.
But Breida has been constantly in the conversation with Jerick McKinnon. He somewhat flew in under the radar in 2017’s preseason, coming in as a UDFA and wound up splitting, sometimes winning the majority of snaps from Carlos Hyde in 2017.
ESPN recently put together bold predictions out of training camp for each of the 32 teams and Nick Wagoner, the 49ers blogger predicted Breida will play a much larger role for the team:
Yes, the Niners spent big on Jerick McKinnon in the offseason and McKinnon will start and get plenty of opportunities, but it would be unwise to forget about Breida in the Niners’ running back room. Breida looked bigger and stronger during the offseason program while maintaining his speed and now that he has a year in the system under his belt, he should be even more comfortable. By the time the preseason ends, don’t be surprised if Breida offers a reminder that he deserves a meaningful role in the offense.
Given all the positives we’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if Breida was on the field in a 50/50 split with McKinnon, and even several plays where they are together on the field; maybe some nice reverses or lining McKinnon up at wide receiver. This is Kyle Shanahan we’re talking about here, so the creativity is infinite.
McKinnon got paid in free agency and Shanahan has indicated that he will be the starting running back, but that could be a misnomer. McKinnon could start, but he also could be fulfilling an entirely different function than Breida. Breida does seem like the more “traditional” running back.
What we could see is one of the best running back tandems in the league.