Matt Breida

Tevin Coleman brings more speed to 49ers' fleet running backs group

Tevin Coleman brings more speed to 49ers' fleet running backs group

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have compiled the makings of a pretty good team in their backfield.

Sure, it's a deep group of running backs, but they also can form a nice track team.

Tevin Coleman was at the 49ers' facility on Thursday to sign a two-year, $8.5 million contract. He is a speedster who played two seasons in Kyle Shanahan’s offense with the Atlanta Falcons.

He joins a group of running backs that already includes Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert.

Has Coleman ever been teammates with such an explosive group of running backs?

“No, I have not. It’s going to be a 4x1 back there,” Coleman said, referring to a 4x100-meter track relay team. “So there’s a lot speed in the backfield. I’m real excited to play with those guys.”

Coleman was timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash before he came out in the 2015 draft. One year earlier, Jerick McKinnon clocked a 4.41 at the combine. Two years ago, Matt Breida ran a 4.39 at his pro day.

Mostert, who signed a three-year extension on Friday, won Big Ten titles at Purdue in the 60 meters and 200 meters during the indoor season, and was the conference champion in the 100 and 200 during the outdoor season. He entered the NFL in 2015.

Shanahan said he has never been with an NFL team that suited up four running backs on game days during the regular season due to the league’s 46-player limit. Because of the team’s increased depth, he could be tempted to re-think some things, he said.

“I think we're in a situation right now, just looking at our roster, that I think it could make a lot of sense this year,” Shanahan said.

It remains unlikely the 49ers will suit up four running backs. But, they can be expected to keep each player on the roster this season. The 49ers know how quickly depth can disappear at running back, so it would be foolish for them to not hold onto all four players.

Last year, McKinnon sustained a season-ending knee injury before the start of the regular season. Breida battled ankle issues; Mostert sustained a fractured forearm; and Jeff Wilson sustained a shoulder injury in the season finale.

Veteran Alfred Morris gained a season-high 111 yards in the final game of the year with Wilson sidelined. Morris, 30, an eight-year pro, remains available on the free-agent market.

If the four running backs remain healthy, the 49ers will be forced to deactivate a proven player for games. Coleman said he is looking forward to bonding with his new running partners as they fight among themselves for playing time.

“Those are my brothers now,” Coleman said. “We’ll go out there and have fun together and play ball and compete together.”

[RELATED: Grading 49ers' free-agency signing, trades to fill roster]

Coleman was a dynamic multi-dimensional player during his four years with the Falcons. He rushed for a career-best 800 yards with a 4.8 average last season. In his first season with Shanahan, he caught 31 passes for career highs with 421 yards and a 13.6 average.

That’s the kind of playmaking Shanahan likes to see from his running backs -- making defenses play a big price for breakdowns in coverage.

“It’s real big because it’s hard to do good in this league with a lot of big guys, a lot of great guys,” Coleman said of the importance of speed. “To get me in space, that’s what my strength is.”

Tevin Coleman contract has 49ers running backs excited about backfield

Tevin Coleman contract has 49ers running backs excited about backfield

Just after the news broke that the 49ers plan to sign running back Tevin Coleman, questions about the backfield depth chart started to arise.

Although there seems to be a shortage of available spots at running back, it didn't keep Coleman's future backfield mates from tweeting their excitement to have him on the team.

Jerick McKinnon, who was last year's big free-agent signing for the 49ers before tearing his ACL before the regular season, was the first one to tweet at Coleman.

With McKinnon coming back from injury this season and the addition of Coleman, last year's No. 1 back, Matt Breida, could find himself dropping on the 49ers' depth chart. Regardless, he still believes San Francisco's backfield is about to be lit.

Raheem Mostert, who filled in while Breida was down with injuries last season, also was quick to welcome Coleman to the Bay.

Mostert might be the lesser-known name out of the group, but it seems his job is safe for the time being.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should consider signing Eric Berry]

They all might end up competing for jobs down the road, but at least for now, they still can be excited for each other and the team.

If 49ers add running back in offseason, who drops off the depth chart?

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If 49ers add running back in offseason, who drops off the depth chart?

The 49ers could add another running back in the offseason, all right.

They could draft a power back who provides a different style of running than the players already on their roster. Or, as many sentimental 49ers fans have suggested, they could sign veteran Frank Gore, who turns 36 in May.

But if they add a running back, somebody is going to have to sit.

The 49ers have Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida under contract. Raheem Mostert is likely to return as a restricted free agent. As the team’s best special-teams player and a capable No. 3 running back, a healthy Mostert is assured of suiting up for every game.

The 49ers finished 13th in the NFL last season with 118.9 yards rushing per game. They tied for 12th in the league with a 4.5-yard average. Where the 49ers struggled, in particular, was near the goal line. The 49ers tied for 30th with just seven rushing touchdowns.

Yet, the 49ers were effective short-yardage situations. On third- and fourth-down attempts of 1 or 2 yards, the 49ers were successful on 21 of 26 opportunities (81 percent).

Coach Kyle Shanahan addressed his throughts on a short-yardage back a year ago after the addition of McKinnon.

“We’ll continue to look in the draft, and we’ll always look to add running backs,” Shanahan said. “When it comes to a big bruiser for the goal line, no one is just running over guys unblocked, either. You need to find open holes and be a good running back.”

Shanahan chose McKinnon a year ago in free agency for his running, his receiving and his ability to exploit mismatches in the middle of the field.

Make no mistake, Shanahan selected McKinnon, whom the New York Jets also pursued on the open market. The 49ers were going to go about as high as necessary to make sure they signed McKinnon.

Shanahan had big plans for a restructured 49ers offense. He envisioned an offense designed around the basic principle that defenses would be compromised when making decisions on how to simultaneously cover McKinnon, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a healthy slot receiver, Trent Taylor, and tight end George Kittle. There would be holes in the defenses, and Shanahan envisioned Jimmy Garoppolo exploiting the weak links – especially on third downs.

But all those plans were blown up a week before the start of the regular season when McKinnon sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament.

McKinnon continues his rehabilitation and training, and the 49ers can only hope he can return physically to somewhere close to his pre-injury form.

In McKinnon’s absence last season, Breida rushed for 814 yards despite battling knee, shoulder and ankle injuries that kept him listed as “questionable” for a large portion of the season. He averaged a hefty 5.3 yards a carry.

Mostert is scheduled for restricted free agency. The 49ers will not let him go, and could even target him for a multi-year contract extension. Mostert proved to be a valuable player on a 46-man game day roster because of his value on special teams.

And when given a chance at running back, the speedster averaged 7.7 yards a carry before sustaining a fractured forearm in Week 9 against the Raiders.

[RELATED: As expected, 49ers will not pick up option on Pierre Garçon]

Veteran Alfred Morris is not expected back, and Jeff Wilson faces an uphill climb for a roster spot despite showing some promise late in the season after his promotion from the practice squad.

So while the 49ers could easily add another running back to their mix, the bigger question is which player would be pushed aside to create opportunities for a new player.