For some players, training camp is a nuisance they have to endure without getting hurt. For other players, it’s the last chance to fight for a job.
This is about the “other” players fighting for a job. These are the five 49ers with the most to lose during training camp.
1. CARLOS HYDE
Hyde will be a free agent after next season, and the 49ers probably won’t re-sign him next year. They already have his replacement — rookie Joe Williams. The new regime drafted him in the fourth round this year.
Unlike Hyde, Williams is a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone run game. Williams almost certainly will be the 49ers’ starting running back in 2018. The coaches just have to decide when they want to transition from Hyde to Williams — this season or next.
So far during the offseason, the Niners have given Hyde the veteran courtesy. They made him the starter for every practice during OTAs and minicamp. But, that doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter during the regular season. Hyde will have to play well during the exhibition games to keep his job.
Throughout his career, he has not shown the skills to succeed in the Niners’ new running scheme. He’s a read-option runner. He lines up behind the quarterback in the shotgun and, if the quarterback doesn’t keep the ball, Hyde runs with it up the middle.
The previous regime drafted Hyde to run this play with Colin Kaepernick. Hyde’s career average from the shotgun is 4.8 yards per carry. But when the quarterback is under center, Hyde’s average plummets to 3.1 yards per carry.
Unfortunately for him, the Niners’ new scheme features a quarterback-under-center run game. It requires the running back to have patience so a hole can develop, vision to find the hole and acceleration to burst through it before it closes.
Hyde may not have those qualities. He doesn’t run with patience, he doesn’t find holes that aren’t directly in front of him and he doesn’t accelerate quickly. He just tries to break tackles. That’s his best quality.
Hyde needs to learn those other things by August. Otherwise, not only could he lose his starting job, the Niners could trade him for a sixth-round pick or a seventh-round pick. Better to get something for him now than nothing for him next year if he leaves in free agency.
2. ERID REID
Reid is another lame duck who will be a free agent in 2018. There is no indication the Niners plan to re-sign him next year.
“As far as I know, there has not been any communication,” Reid said last week, referring to talks between his agent and the team. “I imagine that if I play well the first half of the season, maybe they will reach out to me. Maybe they will reach out to me before training camp. I don’t know.”
I doubt the Niners will open negotiations with Reid’s agent before training camp. Reid has to prove himself. This season is an audition.
The new regime already made him switch positions. He used to be a free safety, and his main job was intercepting passes. He wasn’t good at that job. Now, he’s a strong safety who has to hit like a linebacker and cover tight ends man to man.