San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida is going to be a staple in the offense from now on, meaning he’ll be essential against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4.
It’s been successful already for head coach Kyle Shanahan, but the Niners’ running game now will look to be the focal point for the offense. This serves to take pressure off No. 2 signal-caller C.J. Beathard, who’ll need a strong rushing attack behind now-featured runner Matt Breida, who just happens to league the NFL with an astounding 8.6 yards per carry.
Breida and the 49ers now face the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4. And while L.A.’s offense is potent enough, its defense is suspect and should present Shanahan and Co. with some opportunities on the ground.
The Chargers are allowing an average of 4.3 yards per carry on the ground through three weeks. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though, and Shanahan will want to dial up a game plan using Breida to exploit some key weaknesses within L.A.’s defense.
As a whole, Football Outsiders ranks the Chargers’ 2018 run defense 25th in their DAVE metric.
But how should Shanahan use Breida, specifically?
Outside Runs to the Right
Shanahan’s outside-zone rushing scheme is often associated with creating lanes outside the tackles, where runners can find seams in the defense in open space. The smarter of the two sides should be to the right of San Francisco’s offensive formation, the strong side, where EDGE Isaac Rochell is ranked one of the Chargers’ worst run defenders, per Pro Football Focus, coming in with a 43.7 run-defense grade on the season.
Good thing rookie offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey has already shown his upside in run support.
If that works, Chargers strong safety Jahleel Addae is susceptible against the run, just like Rochell, as his run-defense grade is 58.5.
San Francisco 49ers
Inside Runs to the Left
Breida has shown the ability to thrive on inside runs too, making him a dynamic offensive weapon. He’ll have to be against L.A., which also has its share of run-stopping problems up the middle.
Particularly to the weak side.
Veteran defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is one of the Chargers’ better interior pass-rushers. At run stopping, however, he’s more of a liability. He owns a season run-stopping grade is 49.9 — lowest among L.A.’s front defenders.
Like White, Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman presents a problem at the second level, meaning it wouldn’t be surprising to see Shanahan often utilize 21 personnel (two running backs, two wide receivers and a tight end) to get fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the mix as a lead blocker here.
Running at hybrid safety-linebacker Adrian Phillips is a far better option.
Now the Chargers know this too, meaning they’ll often look to load the box with as many as seven or eight defenders on likely rushing downs, forcing Beathard to make plays through the air. But on those 2nd-and-intermediate plays, where either the run or pass is a viable option, using Breida as a weapon to pick up large chunks would be a wise move.
Plus it helps keep the ball away from the Chargers offense, which is more than capable of taking advantage of the 49ers’ own suspect and banged-up defense this Sunday.
The Niners and Chargers kick off at 4:25 p.m. on Sept. 30 from the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
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