In 2015, the Philadelphia Eagles at one point had six running backs on their roster. Head coach Chip Kelly believes in running the football and having fresh ball carriers available for the fast-paced spread offense he oversees.
And, for the season, the Eagles used a foursome of backs to run the football, led by DeMarco Murray (193 carries, 702 yards), Ryan Mathews (106 for 539), Darren Sproles (83 for 317) and Kenjon Barner (28 for 124).
So, it was no surprise recently when the 49ers re-signed Kendall Gaskins to a two-year deal to give the 49ers some depth as they head toward summer training camp.
Gaskins, 25, an undrafted free agent who left the University of Richmond in 2013, played nine games with the 49ers in 2015 when injuries depleted the team’s running back corps. Previously he spent time with the Bills, the Titans and the Giants. He first was signed by the 49ers to their practice squad in September of 2014.
The 6-foot-1, 238-pounder is a hard-running player who had a talent for getting tough yardage at Richmond, where he scored 34 rushing touchdowns, including 13 his senior season.
In 2015, Gaskins played on 49ers special teams and also had 16 carries for 38 yards and eight catches for 69 yards. But, Gaskins was waived in May.
Gaskins, back with the 49ers again, essentially is a roster replacement for Jarryd Hayne, who decided to return to Australia. But with Carlos Hyde and second-year back Mike Davis healthy again, plus the addition of rookie Kelvin Taylor and the return of Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris, Gaskins’ path to winning an active roster spot in Game 1 of 2016 looks slim. Hyde, Davis and Taylor give the Niners three young backs, and the versatile Draughn played well over the final six games of the season, rushing for 263 yards while also catching 25 passes.
Still, Gaskins is eager for another chance.
“It feels good,” he told WRIC TV in Virginia recently. “I’m just happy to have the opportunity. I’m ready to continue to (improve).” Gaskins added that he’s happy being back with the team and looking forward to helping Kelly’s 49ers “to getting better every single day.”