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With Breida’s return, how will the 49ers divide carries between the running backs?

Shanahan will have some decisions to make to figure out who gets the most touches

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Jimmy Garoppolo was asked about the San Francisco 49ers running backs on Wednesday and had this to say:

You said that when RB Jeff Wilson Jr. went in for that one snap you didn’t even realize it was him. How interchangeable are all those guys that are in the backfield with you?

“All of them, they have unique things that they do well, but all of them can do everything. I know that kind of sounds weird, but they can all catch, they can all run with the ball. You’ve got to pick your spots and I think Kyle and the rest of the coaches do a great job of putting those guys in there and putting them in spots to be successful, really, and that’s what it really comes down to at the end of the day.”

Wilson played five snaps against the Ravens. He caught a pass for seven yards and also had to pick up the blitz a couple of times. We made an entire article of Mostert’s game, and Tevin Coleman has flashed plenty of times throughout the season as well.

Matt Breida returned to practice on Wednesday and is expected to return to the lineup Sunday when the 49ers face the Saints. If you’re Kyle Shanahan, what do you do? Mostert’s performance on Sunday may have been the most impressive from any running back on the team this season, which is saying something considering the plays these guys have made this year. I have a hard time picturing Shanahan takes the ball away from someone who went over 140 yards. Mostert leads all running backs in the NFL in yards per carry at 5.86. Breida is averaging five yards per carry himself and has gone over 100 yards twice this season.

Breida is 16th in the NFL with 16 runs that have gone for at least ten yards. For comparison, Mark Ingram of the Ravens has 18 runs of ten yards or more, but he’s done it on 97 more carries. Mostert isn’t far behind. He has 105 carries and 15 of those have gone over ten yards. It’s Shanahan’s system, the offensive line, but I wouldn’t label Mostert and Breida as “plug and play” guys. They both have unique skillsets that allow them to play at a high level.

Shanahan was asked how he will figure how playing time for the group of running backs. Here’s what he said:

“We have to talk about it a lot. Especially with what [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] has done, too. It’s very tough to use four backs. It’s tough to use three backs. You can kind of go in and designate a certain role for them all, but very rarely do all of them get the work. We started with Tevin last week, Raheem had a few good runs and we stuck with the hot hand. That’s why he got most of them. I’m sure if Tevin would have stayed in, he would have got a few going too, but that’s just how it is when you have a bunch of good backs. It’s something we’re definitely not complaining about.”

It’s a great problem to have if you’re San Francisco.

I still think Coleman is far and away from the best third-down back on the team. He’s very good at blitz pickup. Coleman does a good jog scanning the field, and him knowing where to go is half of the battle. He’s proven to be reliable at mowing down linebackers. Not to mention, Coleman is a fine option to dump it off to. His speed helps him turn gains of two to gains of six, which may not seem like much, but it matters.

I don’t know how you don’t continue to give Mostert and Breida 10-15 touches, though. They both have the true home run ability each time they touch the ball, even more so than Coleman. Playing on a fast surface in New Orleans? I roll with those two on the ground. What say you?