The dawn of a new day is here for the San Francisco 49ers.
The offseason hiring of Chip Kelly has inspired some hope after a 2015 campaign that was hard to watch for stretches.
One of the few bright spots was running back Carlos Hyde, who broke out in Week 1 with 168 yards on 26 attempts and averaged a respectable 4.1 yards per carry before a foot injury shut him down for the rest of the season.
Hyde has been a full participant through the first two days of a three-day mandatory minicamp that started Tuesday. He’s impressed his coaches with his athleticism and dynamic skillset about six months off of surgery — so much so that they’re planning to expand his role under Kelly’s fast-paced offense that requires runners to be receivers.
“He’s got really, really good hands,” Kelly said of Hyde after Wednesday’s session. “… It’s interesting from someone that size and that has that skillset as a guy coming out of the backfield. So, it’s certainly something we need to continue to build upon with him.”
Hyde doesn’t have a reputation for being a scat back-type as he caught just 11 passes on 15 targets for 53 yards in seven games last season.
Even at Ohio State, where Hyde was showcased in Urban Meyer’s spread offense, he still managed just 16 catches his senior year.
Regardless of his past usage, Hyde said Wednesday that he is embracing the new role.
“I definitely think I’ll be involved in the passing game a lot more this year, which I’m excited about,” he told reporters. “I like playing receiver — you know, another opportunity to get out in space with the ball in my hands.”
Before his injury, Hyde looked to be emerging as one of the few feature backs in the league. It will be interesting to see how Kelly utilizes him.
The new head coach has a checkered past with NFL running backs.
LeSean McCoy experienced his best season as a pro under Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, when he ran for 1,607 yards and caught 52 passes for 539 yards. But his numbers saw a massive dropoff in the next season before Kelly ultimately traded him, prompting McCoy to charge Kelly with not liking or respecting star players.
The Eagles replaced McCoy with DeMarco Murray, who had arguably his worst season under Kelly. Murray reportedly asked team management to fire the coach in December, according to NFL.com.
Like many things with the 49ers, how Kelly and Hyde interact will serve as a gauge for the coach’s ability to rebuild his image after a tumultuous exit from his first NFL head coaching job.
But for his part, he’s been complimentary of Hyde and believes he’ll have a true breakout season in 2016.
“I’ve only seen one Carlos Hyde. The Carlos Hyde I know has been healthy and full-go,” Kelly said Tuesday. “So, I’m excited about what he can do.”