By my count, Carlos Hyde could start for at least 19 NFL teams next season. He’s that good.
But, are the 49ers one of those 19 teams?
You’d think the answer would be yes simply because the Niners lack talent and Hyde is one of the few quality players they have on offense. But this is a tricky question.
The Niners will have a new offensive system next season and it’s unique. While most teams run the ball primarily between the tackles, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan runs the ball primarily outside the tackles. He’ll call more outside runs than any other coach in the NFL by far.
Can Hyde succeed in this style of run game?
I’ve had doubts since the Niners hired Shanahan in January, but I don’t know for sure. So, Thursday morning I watched all of Hyde’s 217 runs from last season and paid close attention to ones which were designed to go outside the tackles.
I’m not talking runs that Hyde bounced to the outside after running up the middle. He’s very good at bouncing inside runs to the outside. That’s not what he’ll do under Shanahan. He’ll have to start by running toward the sideline, parallel to the line of scrimmage, and then cut upfield. I watched for those runs.
Before I tell you what I saw, let me take you back to Week 3 when the Niners played the Seahawks in Seattle. I was in the press box for this game, so I didn’t watch the broadcast until Thursday morning.
You may know already know this, but the color commentator was the 49ers’ current GM — John Lynch. Lynch had fascinating things to say about Hyde.
“225 pounds and he’s nifty,” Lynch said early in the game. “(Hyde) can really move. Tom Rathman, their running back coach, is trying to get him to run a little more downhill, be a little more patient and be OK with the 3-to-4-yard run knowing that not every run is going to be the touchdown.”
Lynch was saying Hyde is a good running back who can be overeager and greedy. He’s always looking for the big play. Keep that in mind.
Early in the second quarter, Hyde ran outside the tackles to his right, spotted a hole, cut upfield and gained five yards.
“That’s a patient run,” Lynch said, sounding impressed. “He stretches it until he sees the hole, then he bursts through the hole.”
This play made me think Hyde can play in Shanahan’s offense.
But then toward the end of the second quarter, Hyde ran the same play to his right, and this time he didn’t find a hole. So he stopped running, tried to bounce back across the field to his left and lost three yards. He never cut upfield.
“This is a team in Seattle that you can’t run sideways on,” Lynch said. “They’re just too fast. You can stretch it, but then you’ve got to get downhill. You’ve got to run vertically — north and south — against this team, because guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor, they will swallow you up.”
This play made me think Hyde cannot play in Shanahan’s offense.
Finally during the fourth quarter, Hyde burst through the defense, juked All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas and gained 34 yards. This was Hyde’s best run of the game. It was an inside run.