It's July, so you know what that means -- the NFL season is just around the corner.
After an offseason that saw the 49ers soup up their defensive front by adding Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, San Francisco's 2019 hopes will be determined by how effective Jimmy Garoppolo and his offensive weapons can be in head coach Kyle Shanahan's system.
While Garoppolo's health is paramount to the 49ers' success, the running game also will have to be effective in order for Garoppolo to shred defenses in the way he's capable of.
The NFC West has become one of the better divisions in the NFL, and it's the running game, and the ability to stop the run, that could determine who comes out on top in 2019.
With that being said, here's a look at the top six NFC West running backs ahead of the 2019 season, and no, Todd Gurley isn't No. 1.
The versatile running back has had injury issues over the course of his career. After returning from an injury that sidelined him for most of the 2017 season, the Cardinals were expecting a bounce-back year from Johnson in 2018. But, due to a bad offensive line and an uninspiring passing attack, Johnson struggled, rushing for only 940 yards and seven touchdowns.
Enter: Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals' revamped their franchise by drafting the reigning Heisman Trophy winner with the No. 1 overall pick and pairing him with the Air Raid master from Texas Tech. With an electric dual-threat quarterback now sharing the backfield with him and an offense that won't be stuck in 1981 (great year, bad offense), DJ could return to his 2016 from that saw him rush for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns while also amassing 879 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
Despite head coach Pete Carroll claiming that there is no clear starter between Carson and second-year back Rashaad Penny, it was clear last season that Carson was the top dog. Carson averaged 4.7 yards per carry while gaining 1,151 yards for the Seahawks in 2018.
Seattle ran the ball the second-most of any team in the NFL, and if they stick to that ground-and-pound offensive style, Carson should once again be a productive back.
I'm not ready to sell all of my Gurley stock just yet, but the knee issues are a really bad sign. Gone are the days of Gurley being a workhorse. Gone are the days of him being a touchdown machine. The torn ACL Gurley suffered in 2014 looks to have finally caught up to him.
He was hampered by knee swelling and arthritis for most of the 2018 season, even if the Rams won't admit it, and it looks like the Rams no longer can count on him to carry the load. Still, if Gurley can heal up enough to be 80 percent of what he was in 2017, that's a damn good running back.
The 49ers brought their offense a present in March when they signed Coleman at the start of the new league year. The Indiana product has been a solid back during his career in Atlanta and thrived under then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's direction in 2016 season.
Now reunited with Shanahan, Coleman should give the 49ers and Garoppolo an electric option out of the backfield both in the run and the passing game. I expect Coleman to have a solid season by the Bay.
McKinnon was the 49ers' shiny new toy heading into last season, but a torn ACL quickly ended the speedy back's first year in SF.
Now, McKinnon returns to a crowded backfield that includes the aforementioned Coleman and Matt Breida. Expect the 49ers to ease McKinnon back into play via the passing game where he can eat up chunks of yards quickly with his speed.
If McKinnon still has the look of the player he was with the Minnesota Vikings, he'll be a useful weapon on outside runs, as well as screens and dump-offs. Health is the main concern, but he can be a solid role player to help Shanahan's offense move the chains.
While Carson figures to be the bell cow in Seattle, Penny certainly will get his looks in the Pacific Northwest.
The San Diego State product showed electric flashes during his rookie season, but he struggled to stay on the field. If healthy, he and Carson give Seattle a dynamic 1-2 backfield punch.