Here are three 49ers who deserve more playing time:
1- Running Back JaMycal Hasty:
When active, undrafted rookie JaMycal Hasty has been seldomly used. That was until his breakout performance this past Sunday night against the Rams. In many ways, Hasty was the unsung hero of that game.
When Raheem Mostert left the game in the third quarter, Jerick McKinnon took over as the main back. McKinnon had three carries for 10 yards in that quarter. When the fourth quarter rolled around, McKinnon never received another handoff.
Kyle Shanahan chose Hasty to close out the game, and the move paid dividends. Hasty’s nine carries for 39 yards all came in the fourth quarter. On the first drive Hasty was in the game, he received four carries for 21 yards.
Not a flashy number, but why this is significant is because that drive started at the 49ers’ 28 yard line and ended in a punt which pinned the Rams at their one-yard line. His carries shifted the field position battle, which is an important feat when you’re attempting to close out a game.
In Mostert’s absence, the 49ers must utilize Hasty as the lead back. The other running backs in that conversion are McKinnon and Jeff Wilson. But I feel like Hasty is the obvious choice to fill in for Mostert.
McKinnon has an extremely inflated yards per carry average because he broke off a couple of huge runs earlier in the year. He is not as good of a running back on first and second downs as he is on third downs. On first downs, McKinnon Averages 3.8 yards per carry. Then he goes on to average 2.3 on second down, and 17.6 on third down. He’s at his best in passing situations and no longer has it in him to be a three-down back.
Wilson is similar, except he struggles to run the ball within 49ers’ territory. Between the 49ers’ one and 49 yard line, Wilson has averaged just two yards per carry over the course of the last two seasons -- 13 carries for 26 yards. Wilson is a solid pass-catching back and is terrific near the goal line, but he is not an every-down back.
Looking at all three healthy running backs, Hasty is clearly the team’s best option. He hits the hole hard, and there is a much smaller gap between Mostert and Hasty than there is between Mostert and McKinnon and Wilson.
If the 49ers want to keep their playoff hopes alive, Shanahan must turn to the undrafted rookie while Mostert is out. The team can’t afford to get away from the run, and Hasty is their best bet towards running the ball at a high level.
2- Wide Receiver Richie James
Richie James has missed a lot of time already this year, and does not have a reception on the season. Throughout his young three-year career, he has caught 15 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Small sample size but when the ball gets to him, big plays happen. That is evident through his career average of 19.7 yards per catch.
The 49ers’ receiving room is crowded. James should not receive playing time over Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, or Kendrick Bourne. But he should start to receive playing time over Trent Taylor. Taylor is not good. Despite all of the praise he receives from the media and the fan base each training camp, he is not good on Sundays. It doesn’t matter what you do in training camp, if it doesn’t translate to game day.
Through six games, Taylor has caught six passes for 45 yards. Over the course of the last two weeks, Taylor has already seen his playing time cut dramatically.
Taylor snap percentage by week:
- Week 1: 34%
- Week 2: 46%
- Week 3: 39%
- Week 4: 51%
- Week 5: 6%
- Week 6: 8%
James actually played a higher percentage of snaps in the Week 6 showdown against the Rams, and that might be a sign of things to come. With Dante Pettis on the trade block and Taylor playing a significantly reduced role, don’t be surprised if James steps up into that wide receiver number four role.
3- Safety Tarvarius Moore
It is starting to feel like Tarvarius Moore is rotting away on the 49ers’ sidelines. Moore played in five snaps in the Super Bowl, and had two passes deflected and an interception. You’d think a player who picked off Patrick Mahomes on the greatest stage of them all would be primed for a bigger role the following season.
Moore has played 23 snaps this season, which breaks down to only 3.8 snaps per game. More baffling, the 49ers have gotten Moore in on defense only one time since Week 3.
One snap in three games.
Even more baffling than that, the team opted to give playing time to Ken Webster, Jamar Taylor and Brian Allen. Yes, that Brian Allen, who was picked on time and time against the Dolphins.
At some point, the 49ers need to make it a priority to get their 2018 third-round pick on the field. Jaquiski Tartt will likely not play this week because of a groin injury. It is more than likely the team will play Marcell Harris in Tartt’s absence, but they should have him split snaps with Moore. When Jimmie Ward is in the box, play Moore high. When Ward is high, play Harris in the box.
The bottom line is that Moore is on the verge of entering Ahkello Witherspoon and Dante Pettis territory. Another high draft pick that the team couldn’t develop, for whatever reason. You don’t draft a player in the third round to be a backup safety for years to come. The 49ers must find out what they have in Moore, and they’re running out of time to do so.
*Update: Jimmie Ward has been ruled out for Sunday's game, so we may see Moore after all
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