If there was anyone who benefited from the San Francisco 49ers awful, awful 2018, it was Matt Breida. When fellow running back Jerick McKinnon went down, it was obvious Breida was in line for a bit more work, but he far exceeded expectations. 814 rushing yards (with an average 5.3 yards per attempt), 261 receiving yards and only four targets resulting in an incompletion (87.1 percent catch percentage). Keep in mind Breida had zero drops in the pass-game.
Breida is a beast in the Shanahan offense and that zone run Kyle Shanahan loves to run. The only thing to regress is his yards before contact, which averaged to 2.47 in 2018 as opposed to 3.3 in 2017. Not a huge drop but notable.
This was all done while he played games injured and sat out the end of the season. And that’s the sole knock on Breida. While he managed to put Alfred Morris on the list of healthy scratches, he had a hard time staying healthy. He even played injured on several games where he would go down at some point and you’d think it was over, only for him to show up a week later. If Breida were to be a bell-cow back, his durability is the issue. Can he play a full season?
If his carries were shared with this new beast of a running back group the 49ers have created, he can be a fresh and efficient weapon in the backfield. Then again, with Tevin Coleman and the returning McKinnon, it’s hard to see just where Breida can fit with this group, even after the 2018 season he had.
Experience: Two accrued seasons
Height: 5’ 10
Weight 190 lbs
He is entering the final year of his rookie undrafted free agent deal. His salary for 2019 will be $645,000. The 49ers will not get a deal like this out of him again after his extension. Overall the deal was worth $1.67 million. Total. $1.67 million for three years. He becomes a restricted free agent in 2019.
Pay this man his money.
Why he might improve:
The 49ers offensive line should stay consistent from 2018. The second year of 2018 first round pick Mike McGlinchey should offer all sorts of opportunities for Breida to run around. Also, the depth of running backs could help Breida’s numbers. Given how he was eventually called upon to carry the running game on his shoulders week after week, his body was quite simply broken down as the season progressed. If on an even, or slightly skewed split with Coleman and McKinnon, Breida can be fresh on those explosive runs and have more things like this happen.
Why he might regress:
That snap count could be worse. The 49ers may keep Breida fresh not by fewer carries, but by not dressing on gameday. There’s no doubt running backs will go down at some point and with the depth the 49ers have, they can reload week after week with no issue.
He also can get himself injured again which could lead to something far more devastating than 2018. Remember, he would get nailed and play through it. The Seattle Seahawks game in Week 13 was most apparent where he came in on an ankle sprain and had five rushing attempts before calling it a day. If a running back goes down (which could happen) and Breida injures himself as a result of the increase in workload, it might be indicative of his injury issues.
Odds of making the roster:
Matt Breida is a lock for the roster. The only thing not putting him on it is a trade to another team that wants a productive running back at contract Brieda is making. This is the last year for Breida before he is a restricted free agent. It will be interesting to see what the 49ers do to keep him around or if they will be forced to match an offer sheet.