Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman aren’t big, physical running backs, but they can make enormous impacts without touching the ball 25 to 30 times a game.
As the 49ers get ready to play their regular-season opener Sunday at Tampa Bay against the Bucs, Breida (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) and Coleman (6-foot-1, 210) are likely to share the workload. Breida goes into the game listed as No. 1 on the depth chart, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan says he’ll give both backs plenty of opportunities. Think of Breida as No. 1 and Coleman as 1A.
And, if one of them is having a big game, he’ll continue to get the ball.
Breida says that’s fine with him.
“This offense allows running backs to stay in the NFL longer, because you’re not taking a pounding,” Breida told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “There’s guys like Le’Veon Bell or Saquon (Barkley), where you’re getting the ball every single game. Those guys are bigger and can do it.
“But at the same time (the 49ers’ scheme) is going to prolong your career and you’ll feel better going down the road. As we get toward the playoffs, you’ll feel fresher, because you won’t have as many carries as those guys do.”
In Breida’s second pro season in 2018, he had a career-high 153 carries for 814 yards, while also catching 27 passes for 261 yards. For the Falcons in 2018, Coleman had a career-high 167 rushing attempts for 800 yards while catching 32 passes for 276 yards.
Each is versatile and capable of big plays on the ground or through the air, so Shanahan can use either in any situation.
As Timmy Gibson of Niners Noise pointed out this week, the snap-sharing situation could be a boost for both players, keeping them fresh.
Last season, because of injuries, Breida was forced into a starting role and wore down in the second half of the season, banged up by several injuries. The “running back-by-committee approach” in 2019 could actually make Breida and Coleman more effective over 16 games.
Breida welcomes sharing the snaps with Coleman, entering his fifth NFL season.
“We’ve got Tevin now, which will help take some more off me,” Breida told Inman. “It’ll be good.”
The 49ers-Bucs game Sunday is set for a 1:25 p.m. (PDT) kickoff.