• Zach Grier

Is the 49ers Running Back Corps Better or Worse Than in 2017?

For over a decade, the Niners’ starting running backs were Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. Although Gore will always be remembered as one of the all time Niner greats, he and Hyde were known as powerhouse backs. Now that Kyle Shanahan added free agent Jerick McKinnon this offseason, the Niners have speed and agility in both McKinnon and returning backup Matt Breida. Both have high IQs to find the open lane and burst through the open field, outrunning opponents into find the end zone.

When Shanahan was in Atlanta, he had Devontae Freeman as the power back and Tevin Coleman as the speed back so defenses had to adjust to them every game day. Freeman was the featured back and got most of the attention but Coleman deserved a lot of credit for his ability to get the first down on second- and third-down situations. Freeman was used mainly when it came towards the red zone because he could punch it in for the touchdown.

Going back to talking about the Niners’ running backs because I’m pretty sure that’s the reason why you’re reading this article. That, or you actually think I’m a decent writer which is a little strange.

McKinnon and Brieda will definitely be a force to be reckoned with as their speed will be hard to catch up with. Their one-two punch will tire out defenses quickly. This backfield could be something truly special, and something we haven’t had in a long time. The Niners used to be a run-first team when Jim Harbaugh was coach and could be that way again. Shanahan will be able to catch defenders off guard with a running back that’s able to pass protect and catch the ball into open field. (Unlike our past running back whose name will not be mentioned again for the rest of this article)

The outside-zone scheme are perfect for both backs in terms of running outside the tackles and setting up play-action passing plays. This makes Jimmy Garoppolo’s job a lot easier knowing he has extra protection and a pair of hands if none of the receivers are able to seperate or get open. The offense will be more balanced out with both passing and running. Once the Niners have a good lead in the game, they can run the ball more frequently rather than having to rely on the passing game.

The Vikings’ offensive running scheme was never suited for McKinnon, but for what he worked with, he did a really good job and madename for himself even though he was never the featured back in the system. With Shanahan, he can be the 1,000-yard rushing and 1,000-yard receiving back that he was always meant to be. Brieda could have over 700 yards rushing and 500 receiving as well. This running back tandem could be the next Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003-2007. That was one of the best tandems I’ve watched in my lifetime as well.


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