49ers Run Game Struggling To Find Consistency

Jack Hammer

Something is off with the 49ers running game.

Last season San Francisco bulldozed its way through the to the Super Bowl with a rushing attack that was nearly unstoppable. In playoff wins over Minnesota and Green Bay, the 49ers attempted only 27 passes while running the ball a whopping 89 times.

The 49ers run game didn’t just shine in the postseason a year ago. Throughout the regular season, it made its presence felt, and it finished the season among the top quarter of the league in adjusted line yards, a metric used by the folks over at Football Outsiders to measure a team’s efficiency.

In 2019 the 49ers managed 4.53 adjusted line yards per carry, which ranked them 8th in the NFL. This efficiency carried over to the run game being among the best in getting the ball carrier to the second level, 5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage, where they finished with the seventh-highest average in the league.

Through the first three games of the 2020 campaign, the 49ers run game appears to be at nearly the same level as a season ago, their 4.5 yards per carry is not far off where they were in 2019. There is a big difference though: the run game so far has been extremely inefficient. The 49ers currently rank 31st in adjusted line yards at only 3.09 yards per carry. 

Quite a drop.

Why are the 49ers ranked so low? The answer is simple. Their run game has been boom or bust.

The boom has been the 49ers ability to break the big run. They rank second in yards gained on runs over 10 yards. The bust has been runs being stuffed for a loss or no gain nearly 10 percent more often this season to go along with fewer runs getting to the second level.

This drop off can be traced back to training camp. Offensive line play is like a finely choreographed ballet routine. To get it right takes hours of practice and every member being able to work in unison. Unfortunately for the 49ers, they spent the majority of camp with Daniel Brunskill, their starting right guard, practicing at center due to Ben Garland being out with an injury. Due to losing so much time with forty percent of their line out of position, the 49ers offensive line is far from a prima ballerina.

To make matters more difficult, the 49ers moved Brunskill back to his normal position for the season opener and started Hroniss Grasu at center with Garland returning to the lineup in Week 2. On the bright side, the 49ers have been able to weather the inconsistencies up front with help from Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens converting through the air.

With a very tough seven game stretch on the horizon, the time is now for the 49ers to take advantage of the next two opponents to get their running game hitting on all cylinders.

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