49ers' first-string running game struggles in preseason
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers haven't been able to get off the ground with their first-string running game.
Carlos Hyde has rushed for just 26 yards on 10 carries in the first two exhibition games as San Francisco struggles to get into an offensive rhythm under new coach Kyle Shanahan's offense that is based heavily on outside zone runs.
Shanahan said Hyde tried to do too much on one run last week against Denver, turning a possible 4-yard gain into a 1-yard play but has mostly not gotten the blocking from the rest of the offense needed to generate big plays on the ground.
''There was one play I think he left about 3 yards on the field,'' Shanahan said. ''After that, his other looks I didn't think were very good. We've got to do better with all 11 guys to give him a chance to improve that yards per carry.''
Getting all 11 players on the same page is the key to success in Shanahan's running game. The offense is predicated heavily on stretch plays where the blockers move in unison to one side of the field and the back then waits to find the right hole and makes a quick cut up field.
When that offense is working at its best, it thrives by wearing down a defense and taking advantage if even one defender fails to execute his proper assignment.
But it also requires each member of the offense to perform his job as well, which hasn't happened often enough yet.
''If the running back is off a little, it will cause the offensive line to be off on their blocking,'' rookie Matt Breida said. ''If the offensive line is off, it will cause the running backs to be off. So we both have to be in sync and I feel like each week we're getting better at that.''
The running game as a whole did well in the first exhibition game, gaining 188 yards on 36 carries in a 27-17 victory at Kansas City. But all of that production came from the reserves with Raheem Mostert gaining 89 yards on 15 carries and rookies Joe Williams (60 yards) and Breida (40 yards) combining for 100 more. Hyde ran just two times for no yards in his limited action.
The Niners weren't nearly as productive last week in a 33-14 loss to Denver. They gained just 37 yards on 19 carries as the offense never got into a rhythm thanks in large part to four first-half turnovers.
''Anytime you only get 40-something plays because you're not doing good on third down or because you're turning it over, the run game's not going to look good,'' Shanahan said. ''The run game is about wearing people down, going on drives, getting calls in. You're never going to just go out and run for 7 yards a carry because you're getting 7 yards a carry. That's going to be getting 1, getting 2, getting 1, getting 2, then getting 14. The more you can do that stuff, the more your run game's going to look good.''
Hyde did start finding some holes on his final drive last week, putting together runs of 6, 2, 7 and 7 yards in a stretch of five plays on his final drive of the game.
The hope is to get more of that against Minnesota on Sunday.
''I think one of the things that even I wasn't expecting was how detailed you have to be in everything as far as the run game,'' left tackle Joe Staley said. ''Aiming points. Everyone's got to be on the same page. Running backs, linemen, receivers, everybody for it to work. That's going to come and, hopefully, we do a better job of that this week.''
NOTES: The 49ers released LB Ahmad Brooks after eight seasons with the team. Brooks was tied for the team lead with six sacks last season but had been passed on the depth chart by Eli Harold. ... Rookie QB C.J. Beathard will play with the second string for a second straight week with Matt Barkley getting time with the third team. ... S Jimmie Ward won't play Sunday after coming off the PUP list Wednesday from a hamstring injury.
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