BRADENTON, Fla. – Raheem Mostert became the third different 49ers running back to gain more than 100 yards in a game this season on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
Now with Matt Breida able to participate in full practices after missing three games with an ankle sprain. Coach Kyle Shanahan has a bit of a dilemma on his hands, beginning this week when the 49ers play the New Orleans Saints.
“We have to talk about it a lot,” Shanahan answered when asked about how he will determine playing time for his talented group of running backs.
Mostert in the hot back after rushing for 146 yards in the 49ers' 20-17 loss Sunday to the Ravens.
Breida is the team’s leading rusher.
And Tevin Coleman provides, perhaps, the best all-around combination of outside and inside running, as well route-running and pass-catching out of the backfield.
Breida, Coleman and Mostert have produced 100-yard rushing games this season.
And there’s also Jeff Wilson, who has produced four rushing touchdowns in a limited role and had a touchdown reception out of the backfield to help the 49ers pull off a recent last-minute win over the Arizona Cardinals.
“All of them, they have unique things that they do well, but all of them can do everything,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “I know that kind of sounds weird, but they can all catch, they can all run with the ball.
“You’ve got to pick your spots, and I think Kyle and the rest of the coaches do a great job of putting those guys in there and putting them in spots to be successful, really. And that’s what it really comes down to at the end of the day.”
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There are not enough running plays during the course of a game to take advantage of everyone’s skills, therefore Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner must devise a plan and be ready to adjust during the course of a game.
“It’s very tough to use four backs,” Shanahan said. “It’s tough to use three backs. You can kind of go in and designate a certain role for them all, but very rarely do all of them get the work.
“We started with Tevin last week. Raheem had a few good runs, and we stuck with the hot hand. That’s why he got most of them. I’m sure if Tevin would have stayed in, he would have got a few going, too. But that’s just how it is when you have a bunch of good backs. It’s something we’re definitely not complaining about.”
Breida leads the 49ers with 542 yards rushing with a 5.0-yard average. Mostert has gained 539 yards rushing with a team-leading 5.9-yard average. Coleman has a team-best six touchdowns to go along with his 454 yards rushing on a 3.8 average. And Wilson has four touchdown runs and a 3.9 average on just 27 rushing attempts.