The 49ers have failed to have a running back go over 1,000 yards since Frank Gore did back in 2014. Former 49ers running back Carlos Hyde has come close twice but never passed the threshold, mostly because of injury.
How are McKinnon and Breida going to be used in Shanahan’s offense?
Introduction to the Backfield
Shanahan is viewed as one of the best offensive minds in the national football league. Based on some of his past success he should be able to boast success with the backfield he’s put together.
Jerick McKinnon was one of the biggest offseason additions for the team. After signing a four-year $30 million deal, it’s safe to say the team has big expectations for him. While McKinnon has never surpassed 570 rushing yards in his career he has also never been given the opportunity to be the number one guy in an offense. That should change this season as the team heads into training camp and the preseason with McKinnon as the starter. This leaves Matt Breida as the backup for the team.
After being an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Southern University, Breida became a solid and reliable change of pace guy down the stretch of the season. He finished the year with 645 yards and three touchdowns. He was able to show his ability to be a threat on the ground and through the air at various time throughout the season.
Shanahans Past Success
When looking at Shanahan’s past success you immediately look at what he did with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 when they reached the super bowl. Shanahan had the Falcons offense rolling on all cylinders and it led to some historical remarks. That year the Falcons team finished top five in rushing yards, average yards per carry, and in touchdowns.
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How Shanahan should execute the Backfield
Throughout his career, Shanahan has been a big fan of implementing two back sets and using both of those running backs in the run and pass game. This shouldn’t change in San Francisco. McKinnon and Brieda have the potential to replicate a version of what Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman did in Atlanta.
In Atlanta Shanahan implemented a 60-40 split for his running backs. I expect this to be the same for the 49ers. Many people expect McKinnon to receive 60% of the workload and Breida to receive the remaining 40%.
McKinnon’s role in the offense should be as the main back who has around 20-25 touches a game. you should see Mckinnon receive the majority of the rushing carries with a mix of receiving out the backfield. McKinnon does need to show that he can handle the load of being a teams number one back. Though it is still unproven, it looks like the 49ers view him as that guy after the contract they awarded him.
Brieda should be the secondary/change of pace back in this backfield. Around 10-15 touches a game is what many expect him to receive. Last season Breida showed he is a great short yardage player who can handle the receiving load as well. He has a chance to prove he is a reliable starter/rotational guy in the NFL if he can build on what he accomplished last season.