49ers training camp battle to watch in 2018: Running back

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – AUGUST 27: Jerick McKinnon #21 of the Minnesota Vikings avoids a tackle by Kendrick Bourne #6 of the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason game on August 27, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the 49ers 32-31. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

With the San Francisco 49ers’ 2018 training camp on the horizon, competition will be high. Niner Noise breaks down one running back battle that will be the one to watch.


The most intriguing San Francisco 49ers training camp battle to watch in 2018 is going to be at the running back position.

And for a backup spot to boot.

Don’t let that fool you, though. Whoever can win this spot is going to get a lot of touches in 2018 and will have serious shot at being a big contributor.

First things first, newly signed running back Jerick McKinnon is the starting running back and he has it locked down. I know it, you know it and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan knows it. He has even confirmed it to the public.

“He’s coming in right now and he’s our starting running back,” Shanahan said, per 49ers Web Zone. “We’re going to always compete and we’ll see how that plays out, but obviously, we brought him here to be our starting back.”

Now that we have that understanding, the battle everyone should keep their eyes on during camp is between second-year running backs Matt Breida and Joe Williams.

Williams was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft and Breida signed as an undrafted free agent.

But it was Breida who opened the eyes of coaches and fans in 2017. He battled his way up the depth chart and ironed out a backup role where he was a solid contributor.

Breida finished 2017 with 645 total yards and three touchdowns — an incredible season for an undrafted player.

Williams’ story, on the other hand, isn’t as bright. He showed flashes during preseason, but there was concern around the fact that he was beat out by Breida.

However the potential was there and it was shaping up to be a good battle between the two in 2017.

That battle ended just as fast as it begun, when Williams’ season came to an abrupt end with an ankle injury during the preseason.

The 49ers placed him on injured reserve and stashed Williams away for all of 2017.

Now heading into 2018, both backs are healthy and the battle will continue.

Let’s first take a look at Breida.

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