The Fringe Running Backs
I had a hard time with a guess as to what would happen with free-agent acquisition Tim Hightower, not because of his skills or abilities, but because there was so much potential in the new young guys the 49ers brought in. Hightower represented the gray area in the RB depth chart for multiple reasons.
San Francisco 49ers
I was wrong in one regard, Kapri Bibbs did not assert himself running with the rock this preseason and was caught failing horribly in pass protection. All the while, Raheem Mostert showed more than any expected in all phases of the game and placed himself in front of Bibbs for a bid for the final 53.
This, I don’t believe anybody could of predicted.
The issue with evaluating the 49ers preseason player lineups is Kyle Shanahan values tape more than anything in his evaluation process. This means that, if he has tape on a player because of that player’s history in the league versus a new guy that has no pro tape, the young guy will get the playing time in the preseason so that he can develop tape for him to evaluate.
Inevitably this means you might have a inferior player getting playing time just for the sake of Shanahan’s viewing pleasure.
Hightower is the definition of what this could mean to a vet. Hightower has miles of footage and history with Shanahan for him to evaluate, while someone like Breida has none and could get much more playing time in the preseason. This can cause a ruse for the media and fan base as to how we percieve the potential depth chart.
This being said, even after four preseason games it is difficult to judge where the coaching staff values some players. Hightower unquestionably has his trademark fight, versatility and veteran leadership. These traits measured against what Mostert has done in the preseason is a backroom decision that is next to impossible to predict. All of that said Hyde, Breida and Williams will have a spot. Hightower and Mostert were the question here, and nobody knows outside that locker room which way that leans, given that the 49ers will carry four RBs on the 53.
As it turned out, Hightower got the cut along with Bibbs.
After you come to terms with the personnel, you have to ask the question, “why does the running game seem to be one of the weakest parts of this new team?”
There are two glaring issues I assess as to the reason why this part of the 49ers game is questionable after it being their biggest asset coming into 2017.