How the Seahawks Signing Carlos Hyde Impacts the 49ers
Every offseason, I read reports predicting the imminent fall of the Seahawks.
The Seahawks are the most consistent team in the NFC. Haven’t had a losing season since 2011. And still, no one seems to consider them Super Bowl contenders for 2020. But they’re quietly improving.
The Seahawks just signed former 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. And now the closest rivalry in the NFC West just became much closer. Remember, the Seahawks beat the 49ers in overtime last season in Santa Clara, then lost to the 49ers in Seattle by one inch. Those were the closest games the 49ers played all season.
Here’s how Hyde will make the rivalry even more competitive.
1. The Seahawks now have two running backs who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2019.
Which is key, because the Seahawks are a run-first team whose running backs are big and violent, so they break down often. Last season, their top-two running backs -- Chis Carson and Rashaad Penny -- both were injured when the playoffs began. So the Seahawks had to convince Marshawn Lynch to unretire. Talk about desperate.
Penny could miss the entire 2020 season with a torn ACL, but the Seahawks don’t need him anymore. They have Carson, who rushed for 1,230 and seven touchdowns last season, and now Hyde, who rushed for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns for the Texans in 2019. Either one can carry the load if necessary.
2. Carson and Hyde complement each other.
The 49ers know Hyde struggles when the quarterback is under center -- Kyle Shanahan proved that in 2017 when he forced Hyde to become an I-formation runner, and Hyde averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, second worst of his career.
Hyde feels most comfortable in the shotgun -- we saw that when he played at Ohio State, and when he played with Colin Kaepernick. Hyde has nimble feet and can bounce side to side, which makes him perfect for shotgun runs. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry from the shotgun in Houston last season, and has averaged 4.7 yards per carry from the shotgun in his career. He’s consistent.
Carson is much better when the quarterback is under center. That’s where Carson averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2019. He doesn’t bounce side to side like Hyde. Instead, Carson lines deep in the I-formation, builds up momentum and slams into the line of scrimmage as hard as he can.
Meaning Carson probably will remain the Seahawks starter who plays on first down. But on second down, when the Seahawks move to the shotgun, Hyde probably will come into the game, and the Seahawks will have a deady zone-read duo between him and Russell Wilson. Every team with a mobile quarterback like Wilson needs a shotgun running back like Hyde.
3. Carson and Hyde will force the 49ers to change their defensive identity.
The 49ers want to use a Wide 9 defensive front to rush the quarterback and shut down runs outside the tackles.
But the Seahawks don’t particularly want to run outside the tackles or pass lots of times. They want to bludgeon the opposing defense between the tackles with multiple big, bruising running backs. Call it the Jim Harbaugh mentality of offense.
The Seahawks offensive line coach is Mike Solari, who was Harbaugh’s O-line coach from 2011 to 2014. Meaning Solari coached Hyde when Hyde was a rookie -- that’s the Seahawks’ connection to Hyde. And remember, the Seahawks also have Mike Iupati, whom Solari coached in San Francisco.
Think of the current Seahawks as a combination of their classic defensive scheme and the 49ers’ offensive philosophy from 10 years ago. Not a bad combo.
The Seahawks’ offense forces the 49ers to abandon the Wide 9 -- their identity -- and load up to stop the runs between the tackles. Meaning the Seahawks force the 49ers to do something they don’t want to do. Smart strategy.
Still, the 49ers are the best team in the NFC West. The Seahawks still have more weaknesses than the 49ers, particularly on the defensive line. But the Seahawks will sign someone -- Jadeveon Clowney, Markus Golden. Someone. The Seahawks aren’t done, as they proved by signing Hyde. And they still have Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll.
The gap between the 49ers and the Seahawks is smaller than you think.