Matt Breida

Shanahan: 'Not much of a difference between' Hyde, Breida

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USATI

Shanahan: 'Not much of a difference between' Hyde, Breida

SANTA CLARA – Carlos Hyde might be the No. 7-ranked rusher in the league, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan considers him an equal to rookie backup Matt Breida.

Hyde was the featured back for the 49ers’ first four games of the season, but Breida made his mark last week against the Indianapolis Colts. Breida played more snaps and had more rushing attempts than Hyde.

“We’re still going to keep them fresh because there’s not much of a difference between the two, for me,” Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.

“I know they have different styles. But similar to Atlanta, whether it’s Devonta Freeman for Tevin Coleman, it didn’t matter much. There are some things that one does better than the other, and vice versa. But when you have two guys, it’s a good problem to have. You go with the hot hand but you also try to play both of them and keep them fresh.”

Breida was the hot hand against the Colts. While Hyde was struggling to find room to run, gaining just 11 yards on eight attempts, Breida appeared to be on the brink of busting a long one. He gained 49 yards on 10 rushing attempts.

“Getting that experience, as a rookie being able to play that much, it was an awesome experience,” Breida said. “And I’m just happy they had the confidence in me to go out there and do that.

“As a game went on, I felt the game slowed down for me and I was able to recognize things a lot more and get more in control of the game.”

Hyde had been in control in the 49ers' backfield up to that point. On the season, Hyde has rushed for 332 yards and two touchdowns on 73 attempts. Breida has 120 yards rushing on 30 carries.

Shanahan said he takes a lot into account when determining which back will get the bulk of the playing time. It starts during that week of practice to see which player is meshing better with the game plan. Then, he observes how the game is unfolding.

Against Indianapolis, Breida’s speed to get to the outside and hit the holes quickly was a better counter to the Colts’ large defensive line. On Sunday, the 49ers will go up against a Washington defense that is stout in the front seven.

Former 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has designed a defense that ranks 10th in the NFL against the run. One of his top assistants is defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, who served in that capacity for many seasons with the 49ers before replacing Jim Harbaugh as head coach.

“Those are two coaches I have a lot of respect for,” Shanahan said. “I’ve played against them a bunch. And you can see them putting their imprint on the defense. Their front is tough to go against. They play a hard 3-4. They got a bunch of big guys up front.

“They’re pretty talented up front. They set the edge. Those guys inside don’t move much, and they keep everything condensed. They make you work for everything. You got to grind it out against them.”

49ers Mailbag: Must-win game vs Cardinals?

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49ers Mailbag: Must-win game vs Cardinals?

The 49ers are still looking for their first win of the Kyle Shanahan era as they head to Arizona to face the Cardinals on Sunday.

We solicited some questions via Facebook for this edition of the 49ers Mailbag. Here’s the result. . .

Is this a "must win" for purposes of morale, energy, confidence? (Max Ferrero)
The 49ers are not in a position to compete for the NFC West title, even though the division appears to be heading southward.

The nucleus of the 49ers’ roster is developing and not ready to do the heavy lifting required for the team reach the playoffs. And some of the veterans are not playing as well as expected.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are well aware they do not have the horses to produce a winning record this season. But the plans in place offensively and defensively should enable this team to improve throughout the season – unlike the past few seasons.

Therefore, I don’t see morale and energy being issues. Every player knows the coach and GM are going to be around for a while. The players who do not bring it on a weekly basis will not be back next season. So there is constant motivation for the players to produce and not give up on the season at any point.

There is no illusions about this team. The organization is building for the future, so each player must prove that he is part of the solution and not part of the problem.

If Hyde can't play, how do you anticipate the 49ers will split carries? Is Breida ready to be a featured back? (Josh Gale)
First off, I think Carlos Hyde will play on Sunday. He went through limited practice all week and is listed as questionable for the game. I’d be surprised if he does not play against the Cardinals.

But in the event that the 49ers do not have Hyde’s services – either for this game or down the road – I don’t believe the 49ers would rely on just one back. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert would share the load. And if Hyde – for whatever reason – were unavailable for an extended period, the team would promote Jeremy McNichols from the practice squad or re-sign veteran Tim Hightower.

How big of a leash does Hoyer have before Beathard is given a chance? (Omar Rodriguez)
Brian Hoyer is the best quarterback on the team. This is no knock on C.J. Beathard, but I can’t think of anything he does better than Hoyer at this stage of their careers.

That stated, Hoyer appeared to be in danger of letting this thing get away from him last week when he threw a horrendous interception on his first attempt against the L.A. Rams after coming off the worst back-to-back starts of his NFL career.

Hoyer has been productive in this offense. He knows the system well. He gives the 49ers the best chance of winning.

Beathard might eventually get there, but it’s way too much – and too early -- to ask of him to come to the rescue of a struggling team.

Kyle Shanahan keeps Panthers guessing: 'I don’t mean to be a d**k'

Kyle Shanahan keeps Panthers guessing: 'I don’t mean to be a d**k'

SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan does not mean to be, uh, difficult.

Well, actually, yes . . . yes, he does.

The first-year coach of the 49ers goes into the season opener on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers with the advantage of the unknown. He knows all about the Panthers, based on preparing to face that veteran defense four times over the past two seasons while offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.

And while the Panthers know all about Shanahan’s style of offense from his time in the NFC South, things are bound to change with him running the 49ers' offense. After all, Matt Ryan is no longer his quarterback; Julio Jones is no longer his receiver; and he does not have running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

That is why Shanahan, who was more forthright than most coaches during training camp, is not going to divulge how the 49ers are going to feature their personnel on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

“Brian Hoyer’s starting, I promise you guys that,” Shanahan said of the 49ers’ quarterback. "(Joe) Staley’s starting. Everyone else, we’ll find out on Sunday. I don’t mean to be a d---.

“It’s the season now, if there’s any gray area we’ll figure it out on Sunday.”

Of course, the 49ers have already figured it out. It’s the rest of us – and that includes the Panthers -- who will figure out on Sunday how the 49ers will deploy their personnel.

And, yes, there are still plenty of questions:

Who starts at free safety?
Jimmie Ward does not figure to be available for Sunday’s game. After all, Ward sustained a hamstring injury during the team’s conditioning test on the eve of the team’s first practice and has not taken part in a full practice this entire summer.

Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome started the first two exhibition games in place of Ward. But Jaquiski Tartt is the likely pick to start against Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Tartt is a third-year player with 14 career starts. Jerome earned his place on the roster, but the 49ers need more experience on a snap-to-snap basis.

The 49ers will feature an eight-man front on base downs. Tartt and Eric Reid are interchangeable with each possessing the size and strength to hold up in the run game.

But this does not mean that Jerome will be a mere bystander. In passing situations, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has the option of bringing in Jerome as a sixth defensive back and replacing linebacker NaVorro Bowman. That is how the 49ers approached it during the third exhibition game, which is the closest approximation to the regular season.

Will Hyde and Breida share the load?
This is a huge season for running back Carlos Hyde. This is his contract year and his future is unsettled.

The 49ers have plenty of money to spend on extensions, and Hyde has a chance to prove the organization’s future is in better hands with his hands on the football.

To Hyde’s credit, he was magnanimous when talking about how rookie backup Matt Breida will be incorporated into the 49ers’ offense this season.

“He’s going to be used just as much as I’ll be used,” Hyde said. “So it’ll be good for us. We keep each other fresh and tear this season up.”

But it is difficult to believe Breida will be used as much as Hyde, who came to camp in tremendous physical condition and should thrive in Shanahan’s zone scheme. More than likely, the 49ers will give Breida a smaller package of plays and find a specific role for him to be used in spot duty.

Will Thomas take over as a starter?
The 49ers had Solomon Thomas rated as the No. 2 prospect in the draft behind Myles Garrett. By no means has Thomas been a disappointment. But Thomas got off to a slow start because of the restrictions on when he could join the 49ers’ offseason program.

Look for Tank Carradine to serve as the 49ers’ starter at the “big end” position. Why? Carradine has not done much in his four seasons with the club but Saleh has found something that Carradine does better than just about anyone in the league.

“With Tank, when I say ‘elite,’ I’m talking as a run-down, six-technique, someone who just can really dominate his edge and own the line of scrimmage,” said Saleh, referring to run downs when Carradine is lined up over the opposing tight end.

Thomas will see plenty of action, and he might even be on the field to start the game, depending on the personnel group the Panthers send onto the field for the first snap of the game. Thomas can be expected to play a significant role in the 49ers’ defense on third downs.