Matt Breida has been one of the 49ers’ bright points in a dark season, but the team will miss him this Sunday because of an ankle injury.
Breida, who’s been dealing with an ankle problem since October, aggravated the injury last week in Seattle and played just 10 snaps. So, the second-year running back who has 744 yards rushing in 2018 and is averaging 5.64 yards per carry – the third-best average in the NFL – will be replaced by rookie Jeff Wilson.
Wilson, an undrafted free agent from North Texas, was promoted from the practice squad recently and has appeared in two games. He had seven carries for 33 yards against Tampa Bay and then carried 15 times for 61 yards vs. Seattle. He also has caught nine passes for 81 yards.
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan loves the way Wilson plays even bigger than his 6-foot, 194-pound frame. He runs hard, breaks tackles and brings a physical attitude to every carry.
“That’s what got him an opportunity in this league,” Shanahan told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s what he does best. That’s why he’s going to make it. I hope he doesn’t lose that – for his and our sakes. He runs hard, and that’s what he does well. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy and he keeps getting better.”
In his senior season at North Texas, Wilson rushed for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns, while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He also had 24 catches for 168 yards.
Wilson says he tries to be smart when he takes on tacklers.
“You always have to pick and choose your battles,” he told Branch. “I’m not (going) in there and just try to run down the middle of (everybody). It’s certain times you do it. … But I’m more of an aggressive runner.”
On Sunday, when the 2-10 49ers take on the 6-6 Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium, Wilson will get his first NFL start and the opportunity to build on what he showed in last week’s loss at Seattle.
“He hits the hole and he runs hard,” said Shanahan. “He’s a very good zone runner. He doesn’t mess around. He sets his track. When he sees an open gap, he puts his foot down and goes for it.”
Kickoff Sunday is set for 1:05 p.m.