It would seem, at least in some circles, that when the San Francisco 49ers running back situation is addressed, the contribution of one key player is often overlooked.
I guess it’s easy to see how it can happen, right? RB Carlos Hyde will be the main ball carrier, RB Reggie Bush is a brand name veteran, and RB Mike Davis is an exciting rookie. But what about the old reliable? What about the player who has been there, and performed admirably in his role for three seasons?
Obviously, I’m talking about RB Kendall Hunter, who could be an important piece of the team’s offense in 2015.
As RB Frank Gore‘s primary backup from 2011-2013, Hunter proved to be perfectly cast as a change-of-pace back that could produce on a regular basis with limited touches.
Hunter has played in 43 regular season games overall and received 262 carries. He’s gained 1202 yards which puts his career yards per attempt at 4.6. He’s been consistent throughout in the department, averaging 4.2 in 2011, 5.2 in 2012, and 4.6 in 2013. Hunter has also scored seven touchdowns.
When you breakdown his stats even further, you’d see that Hunter has averaged about six carries and 28 yards a game, which could be right in line with what he’ll be asked to do this upcoming season. Much of that will depend on how close he is to 100 percent after missing all of last year with knee injury, but somewhere between 5-7 touches a game (including passing targets) seems about right.
But what if Hyde goes down with an injury or simply isn’t up to the task of carrying the load? Could Hunter continue to produce if he had to touch to the ball 10-15 times a game?
History as shown he can, as in the six games he received 10 carries or more, he’s gained 349 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. More importantly, he’s been consistent, averaging 4.3 or higher in five of the six games. By comparison, Hyde received nine carries or more in four games last season, and only averaged 2.7 yards per attempt. He was at 2.8 or lower in three of the four games.
This isn’t to say that Hunter is a better players than Hyde, as the 49ers offensive line was much better in 2011-2013 than it was in 2014. It just backs up the point that Hunter is a proven commodity who has shown he can produce. In a season of transition, the 49ers are lucky to have him back in the fold.