• Nicholas McGee

Carlos Hyde needs sustained early success to remain a 49er

The continuing insistence that Carlos Hyde and the San Francisco 49ers are heading for a potentially imminent divorce has been one of the more bemusing and tedious storylines of the offseason.

That is mainly because a hasty breakup between the new regime and a player coming off his best season, in which only a Week 16 injury denied him 1,000 yards while playing behind a terrible offensive line, seems largely unnecessary.

Yet people have kept connecting the dots. Hyde is in a contract year, is seen by many as a bad fit for the zone scheme run by Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers added two rookie running backs in Joe Williams and Matt Breida.

Taking all that into account it is not difficult to see why many believe Hyde is not long for the 49ers. But training camp has brought about something those same observers may have been surprised to hear, widespread praise for Hyde.

General manager John Lynch told KNBR of Hyde, per The San Francisco Chronicle: "We brought in competition at that position and, somewhere along the way this offseason, he flipped a switch."

Lynch followed up those words by saying Hyde looks "tremendous" while Shanahan, per The Press Democrat commented that he had taken his commitment in the offseason "to another level".

Those certainly don't sound like the words of an organization about to trade or even cut its starting running back, and the extra effort Hyde has seemingly been putting in is showing on the field.

Indeed, The Niners Wire's Rob Lowder described Hyde as "outstanding" both as a runer and a pass-catcher out of the backfield in camp so far.

For his part, Hyde has spoken of his desire to be the top rushing back in the league but, though he and the 49ers seem quite happy with each other at this point, the fact remains San Francisco will have a decision to make surrounding the former Ohio State Buckeye at some point this season.

Hyde is still, at the moment at least, the 49ers' best running back, so cutting him -- which some have suggested could happen -- would seem foolhardy.

That leaves three options, pay Hyde and extend him, let him hit the open market in 2018 or trade him.

The problem, though, is that the 49ers do not, as it stands, have enough information to make such a decision. Hyde has never finished a full season but has shown enough in the way of talent to suggest he could become one of the premier running backs in the league.

Therefore, if the 49ers want to reach a positive resolution with Hyde, then they need him to produce a fast start to the 2017 season.

If Hyde struggles to adapt to Shanahan's scheme then a trade would seem more likely, if he improves down the stretch and has an impressive finish he may just decide to bet on himself and hit the market regardless of whether the 49ers offer him a deal.

But Hyde has consistently been a fast starter. He decimated the Vikings for 168 and two scores in Week 1 in 2015 and had 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Rams in the opener last season.

The issue Hyde has had is sustaining that success. He had just one other showing of over 55 yards after his incredible 2015 opener and just once in the next six games after the win over the Rams did he top 80 yards.

But when Hyde does put it all together, it can be utterly spectacular. He has a combination of power and agility that still seems to go unnoticed by many and, if he enjoys sustained success early in 2017, the 49ers may be forced to offer him a lucrative extension to keep him around.

For all the chatter about Hyde and the 49ers potentially parting ways, there is the possibility he flourishes in Shanahan's system as a result of the evident determination he is showing in camp. Should that come to pass, then Hyde may be a 49er for much longer than widely anticipated.