San Francisco 49ers rookie running backs Joe Williams and Matt Breida helped ensure a roster spot after strong NFL preseason efforts against the Kansas City Chiefs last Friday.
One preseason game — a 27-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs — isn’t going to provide all the answers. But based off this small sample size, both Williams and Breida are in excellent shape to make it through roster cuts.
Williams, San Francisco’s fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, is a safe bet to make the roster regardless. Despite concerns about his football commitment, Williams remained a target for head coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner.
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And despite a slowish start to training camp, Williams is starting to reveal his potential.
The same could be said of Breida, an undrafted free agent, who was one of the bigger standouts during offseason workouts.
Matt Breida’s Run-Tough Abilities
Breida averaged just 3.6 yards per carry on 11 attempts in Kansas City. But he offers a unique change-of-pace ability, reflecting more of the power-back prowess, compared to the speedy and elusive Williams.
Pro Football Focus thought so, crediting him with six forced missed tackles versus the Chiefs:
And according to PFF’s Jeff Deeney, Breida could wind up being more of an inside-the-tackles tailback for Shanahan’s ground attack:
At most, San Francisco will keep four running backs on its 53-man roster this season. Breida, who probably wouldn’t make it safely to the practice squad, is in perfect position to push both Mostert and Bibbs out of the picture.
Joe Williams’ Speed on Full Display
If Breida is tuned more to running between the tackles, Williams exemplified almost everything Shanahan wants in his outside-zone scheme.
On this outside run, Williams’ speed is on full display, as he hits the crease and explodes deep into the second level:
This wasn’t just one play, though.
Williams finished his night with 60 yards on seven carries — an astounding 8.6 yards per attempt. While Williams was mostly going up against second-string defenders, it’s promising to see the speedy rookie making an impact right away.
He won’t surpass Hyde on the depth chart anytime soon. But there’s a decent chance Williams makes Hyde, a pending free agent after this season, expendable in the 49ers’ future plans.
It’s only the first week of the preseason, and there is a long way to go before the official depth chart at the position is announced.
But both Williams and Breida have made strong cases to be in top consideration.