San Francisco

Fit, Healthy Hyde Could Have Special Season for 49ers

Running back enters third season as a seemingly perfect fit for Chip Kelly's offense

Carlos Hyde has played just 21 games in the NFL and, in two seasons, he’s rushed for just 803 yards.

But as Hyde prepares to open training camp with the 49ers this weekend, many view the running back as the key to the San Francisco offense under new head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly insists his fast-paced, spread attack is a run-first offense, despite its use of three- and four-wide receiver sets.

So much rests on Hyde and his ability to produce – and stay healthy – in his third NFL season. This week, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Hyde’s ability to stay on the field is one of the 49ers’ five key questions for 2016 heading into camp.

He noted that the bruising, 6-foot, 230-pounder missed just two games because of injury in his career at Ohio State, but already has missed 11 games over two NFL seasons.

Wrote Lynch: “Hyde’s physical style has invited an obvious question: Should he incorporate a bit more finesse in an effort to stay on the field? In June, he offered his answer: ‘I’d rather just try to run through you.’ ”

Hyde is 100 percent as camp begins, fully recovered from surgery to repair damage to his left foot suffered early in the 2015 season, his first as the team’s No. 1 running back.

Kelly has praised Hyde as an all-around back. He’s eager to see what Hyde can do as both a runner and receiver. Hyde, too, says he wants to be more involved in the passing game.

“(Hyde) has the skillset to be an outstanding running back at this level,” Kelly said recently. “He can do everything. You don’t want the ‘he’s just a third-down back’ because that kind of diminishes what we can do with him on first and second down. You’re looking for a guy who can be a three-down back, and that’s certainly what Carlos is.”

Plus, the 49ers likely will have more depth at the position to keep Hyde fresh and healthy. Second-year man Mike Davis, rookie Kelvin Taylor and returning veteran Shaun Draughn lead a group vying for carries and receptions behind Hyde.

Bryson Vesnaver of the analytic website Pro Football Focus recently wrote that Hyde is poised to flourish in Kelly’s offense, based on the production in Philadelphia of versatile back LeSean McCoy, who had 709 touches in two seasons under Kelly. Vesnaver also noted that Hyde is better at breaking tackles than McCoy, with an “elusive rating” far higher than McCoy’s: 78.7 (the second-best in the NFL in 2015 and a hair above his 74.2 mark as a rookie) to 48.8 (in McCoy’s best season).

“There’s not a huge sample size, but Hyde may be the most elusive RB that Kelly has coached in the NFL,” wrote Vesnaver.

Said Kelly recently: “Carlos is a stud. He’s as advertised. To have someone that size that is that agile, has that vision, it’s really impressive to see him work every day. He’s really good. We’re really excited about him.”

Contact Us