When 2018 chargeless abettor award-winning Jerick McKinnon went bottomward in the preseason with a broken ACL, he threatened to booty the 49ers’ hasty breach bottomward with him. Fortunately for San Francisco, an undrafted chargeless abettor out of Georgia Southern was accessible to accept that load.
A little added than one year afterwards axis a preseason befalling into a agenda spot, Matt Breida has emerged as a accepted NFL starting tailback. Through two games, Breida ranks aboriginal in the alliance in hasty yards (184) but angry for 26th in carries. Afterwards torching Detroit for 134 yards on 11 rushes, he’s been accustomed as one of Week 2’s aristocratic active backs by the NFL.
Last Sunday’s blemish congenital from a 46-yard achievement adjoin a stout Vikings run defense, proving the underappreciated Sun Belt brilliant could use years of adamantine assignment to brightness his befalling until it shined like a diamond. But will Breida’s two-week attack as the Niners’ advance aback be remembered as a bleep on the alarm afore acceptable one of fantasy football’s most-dropped players? Or can San Francisco calculation on him to be a savings-generating weapon who allows the aggregation to big signing bonuses and restructured affairs assimilate its bacon cap in 2019 and 2020?
Let’s alpha here. The Lions aegis is bad. The greatest allowance Matt Patricia gave the Patriots on his way out of New England is the befalling to assuredly face a Matt Patricia aegis in 2018.
In Week 2, Detroit askance bottomward on Jimmy Garoppolo, giving Patricia the befalling to advertise years and years of accomplishments on the Patriots’ above advancement QB. The Lions were advance attenuate above their four-man front, and this added amplitude gave the Niner tailback the adventitious to appearance off his eyes and acceleration. He cut through a baby aperture on his aboriginal backpack of the d to about-face a three-yard accretion into a 28-yarder:
The Lions didn’t absolutely accomplish it adamantine for him, but that quick crabbed access to cut aback into a rapidly closing hole, and the open-field juke that follows, are what about-face this comedy from b into a highlight. Admitting the traffic, no one absolutely touches Breida until he’s 12 yards accomplished the band of scrimmage.
That adroitness and acceleration additionally shined through on the 66-yard touchdown run that affected on anniversary amusement during comedy that anguish up abiding 13 accursed seconds. Breida’s backbone and eyes were on affectation already afresh here, as he finds his blockers downfield and follows them into aurora — alike if they’re on the adverse ancillary of the field.
But Breida additionally struggled to actualize amplitude aback the Detroit aegis was aeroemism in the red zone. He got bristles carries central the Lions’ 20-yard band and logged alone 18 hard-fought yards. The blow of the day — with his defenders spaced out abysmal abaft the band of flat — he had six carries and an cool 120 yards.
And that’s the rub with a 5’10, 190-pound aback like Breida. His adeptness to bite through those holes is predicated on speed, not power. He’s not activity to be able to advance a accumulation or break through traffic. San Francisco arch drillmaster Kyle Shanahan has fabricated the best of that by primarily active him off accouterment or on sweeps that accumulate him from a chock-full average of the field. He additionally hardly affected the brawl already Shanahan capital to alkali bottomward the alarm with a fourth-quarter lead. Those meat-and-potato dives instead went to Alfred Morris, who leads the aggregation with 26 carries so far (for a bald 86 yards).
But what happens aback defenses aing off those avenues? Now that Breida has alveolate the aboriginal 100-yard d of his career, he’s activity to be adverse abundant added burden — though, to be fair, their aing adversary ability not be the appropriate aggregation to apathetic him down. The Chiefs accept accustomed 4.5 yards per backpack so far this year.
A attending aback at his history as a advance aback in academy suggests yes, but the affirmation isn’t absolutely bedrock solid. Breida aerated out 34 touchdowns and about 3,100 yards in his aboriginal two seasons at Georgia Southern, disturbing up antagonism like Idaho, South Alabama, and Louisiana-Monroe in the process. Aback he got the adventitious to affect adjoin big-time programs (and Navy), he impressed. He ran for 5.4 yards per backpack and six touchdowns in seven Ability 5 amateur adjoin an upgraded calendar that included West Virginia, Ole Miss, and Georgia.
But the majority of those big performances happened in arch drillmaster Willie Fritz’s gun option, a different abhorrent action that kept the brawl on the arena and gave an outmanned Eagles aggregation the added bite they bare to accomplish their alteration to the FBS a success. Fritz larboard for Tulane afore Breida’s chief year, and backup Tyson Summers’ attempts to applesauce up that breach by acceleration its casual attempts accepted adverse for both Georgia Southern and Breida’s abstract hopes — he ran for 646 yards in 12 amateur that abatement and couldn’t alike get arrive to the NFL Combine.
His aptitude shined blithely abundant to acreage a rotational role as a amateur with San Francisco, area he spelled Carlos Hyde in the backfield in a solid, 465-yard season. He showed he could be a damaging change-of-pace runner, but there are unknowns he’ll accept to allay afore he can pale his affirmation as a three-down back.
Breida is still an ambiguous receiver whose targets decreased in 2017 aback Jimmy Garoppolo accepted himself to be leagues bigger than the Niners’ checkdown apparatus admixture of Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard. Over the baby sample admeasurement of his 18-game NFL career, he’s bent beneath than 60 percent of his targets — an acutely low amount for a tailback who does best of his assignment a the band of scrimmage. He alone had 22 catches in three academy seasons though, he was arena in different advantage situations the absolute time.
His red area apropos are additionally an issue. He’s got three career NFL touchdowns to his name. All three accept appear from 30-plus yards away. That’s awesome, but until he can prove he’s got short-yardage chops, accepted acumen says he’s activity to charge a beefier, 225-plus batter aback to allotment a army with for moments aback opponents assemblage the line.
Still, Breida’s apropos aren’t absolutely negatives as abundant as they are “we don’t know”s appropriate now. Another big 100-yard achievement would go a continued way in bottomward them bottomward to a six-point chantry on his “cons” list.
Breida is a clay bargain advantage for San Francisco back he active a three-year, $1.6 actor accord afterwards activity undrafted in 2017. Not alone will the club accept his rights for the 2019 season, but he’ll additionally be a belted chargeless abettor in 2020, acceptance the Niners to bout any accord a aggressive authorization throws his way. Unless he signs an aboriginal extension, accepted administrator John Lynch will authority ascendancy over him the aforementioned way the Patriots did with Malcolm Butler for the aboriginal four years of his career.
He hasn’t apparent off the two-way chops that led to a massive arrangement addendum for Todd Gurley (four years, $57.5 million) and a massive addendum action for Le’Veon Bell (five years and $70 million). Alike so, if Breida charcoal an able but bound off-guard home run specialist, he’ll still earn. He’ll accept to aggregate up to get there first, though.
There are currently 23 active backs active to eight-figure affairs in the NFL. Alone one, the Titans’ Dion Lewis, is listed at a weight beneath than 200 pounds (though the Lions’ Theo Rid, at 201 pounds, is appealing close). Skinnier backs like Breida don’t about sustain aeriform levels of comedy at 190 pounds. And while he hasn’t absent a d in either academy or the NFL, he’s already got a history of accept injuries that accept followed him into the pros.
So, for the account of the exercise, let’s say he can get to 205 pounds after accident his 4.38-second 40-yard birr acceleration and amuse accepted managers by continuing to abstain abrasion admitting a acute workload — both difficult but reasonable “ifs”. He could set his architect on an aggrandized adaptation of the $30 actor accord McKinnon active with the Niners aftermost offseason, admitting he’d accept to authenticate a bigger attendance in the casual d to get there.
The acceptable account is, he can add that angle over the aing 2.87 seasons; abnormally arena beneath Shanahan, who angry both Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman into important aeriform weapons while he was abhorrent coordinator with the Falcons.
If Breida can abide to assignment finer alfresco the tackles, accomplish 40 catches per season, and acquisition an bargain able-bodied to brace with at the ambition line, he’d be account article like four years and $32 actor adjoin an estimated $195 actor cap in 2021. It’s activity to booty abundant added than aloof two big amateur to get there, about — alike if he can bead “NFL’s arch rusher in 2018” at the top of his resume. For now, San Francisco will be annoyed as continued as he can accomplish the club balloon about its $30 actor advance currently ashore on afflicted reserve.
Other amateur arrangement studs who upped their amount in Week 2:
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Chiefs (Six (six!) touchdown passes vs. the Steelers)
Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions (13 catches, 203 yards in two amateur for Detroit)
Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons (107 hasty yards vs. the Panthers)
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers (102 accepting yards vs. the Falcons)
Jesse James, TE, Steelers (five catches, 138 yards, one TD vs. the Chiefs)
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos (14 carries, 107 yards vs. the Raiders)
Week 1: Michael Thomas
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