No. 5: 49ers Running Game Will Rank in the Top 10
But this is a downgrade from what the Niners did last year, right?
Yes it is, and San Francisco actually boasted the fourth best rushing attack in the NFL in 2016 with 2,019 yards gained.
Keep in mind former quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert accounted for 641 of those rushing yards, and we shouldn’t expect anything of the sort out of now-QB Brian Hoyer. He’s not a rushing threat.
So that means the ground game likely focuses on two players — running backs Carlos Hyde and Joe Williams.
Hyde enters a contract year, so that alone should provide extra motivation. Being pressed on by Williams (a factor will tackle next) is another important factor.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan likely understands his offense isn’t built to be pass happy. With an improved-but-still-questionable defense, the Niners will have to establish a ground game early and often to keep things close.
And while San Francisco’s offensive line wasn’t good at run support last year — ranking dead last in run-blocking efficiency, per Football Outsiders — Hyde still managed to average 4.6 yards per carry. Even moderate O-line improvements could point to big gains on the ground.
But what if Hyde loses his starting job?