Here is a link to my Sunday column about 49ers’ tailback Carlos Hyde. The full text runs below:

Today’s key word is “potentially.”

I’m saying 49ers rookie running back Carlos Hyde is more important to the team than terrific, fantastic, exceptional wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Potentially.

I’m saying Hyde brings more to the Niners than Boldin, even though Boldin was named the team MVP last season. Potentially.

This is nothing against Boldin, absolutely essential to the team. I use him as an example to show Hyde’s enormous impact. Potentially.

Look at it like this. The 49ers traded for Boldin before last season to improve their passing game. And he responded. He is one heck of a receiver and he’s a tough guy. He led the team with 85 catches and 1,179 receiving yards. He was a big deal.

Hyde can be a bigger deal.


For starters, Boldin is part of the passing game, a somewhat vestigial aspect of the 49ers’ offense. The 49ers are a running team. They are not a team that uses the West Coast Offense. They are more University of Michigan under Bo Schembechler.

Which means Boldin, as great as he is, was a little off the point of the 49ers’ primary focus. With Boldin in the starting lineup, the 49ers did not improve. They pretty much stayed the same, although without Boldin they went to the Super Bowl and with him they didn’t. Boldin helped the 49ers maintain. He did not help them advance.

I am not putting down Boldin and the 49ers’ passing game. I am stating facts. The Niners passed less frequently than any team in the NFL last season, ranked dead last in pass attempts. But they ranked third in rushing attempts last season.

What does this tell us?

It tells us they are a run-first team. It tells us running back is really important to them. More important to them than an elite receiver.

Which brings us to Frank Gore. Old man Gore. A man with mileage on his legs. A man beginning to leak oil.

The Niners have gotten the most out of Gore in his twilight years with good blocking and clever run plays. All credit to Gore and the 49ers and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is smart designing runs. Although the 49ers try not to overwork Gore, go easy on him in preseason, he faded toward the end of last season. Maybe there was slippage in his transmission and his tires lacked some tread and he couldn’t zoom from zero to 60 like he used to.

Gore does not play well in Seattle. In last season’s final game, the 23-17 disappointing loss to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, he ran for 14 yards on 11 carries. That “14” is not a misprint. Gore averaged a little more than one yard per carry.

Colin Kaepernick would hand Gore the ball and the Seahawks defenders would flatten him like a pancake at the line of scrimmage. And poor old Gore would stagger to his feet, a look of confusion on his innocent face. Football wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Neither was life. It’s not going to get easier for Gore this season.

Because Gore couldn’t compete in that final game, the offense came down to Kaepernick scrambling — sometimes out of desperation — and throwing passes he did not want to throw.

The Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch, by way of comparison, ran for 109 yards on 22 carries, just took over the game. The 49ers need to match the Seahawks. The 49ers need a back who can contribute late in the season, a back who can get hit at the line of scrimmage and still gain three or four yards, a back who can run like crazy in the loud, mad, ear-fracturing chaos of CenturyLink Field.

Carlos Hyde is that back. Potentially.


He is younger than Gore by eight years. He has less mileage on his engine and no dings on his bumpers. He is 20 pounds heavier than Gore, a flat-out bigger man. He is more powerful than Gore. He is as fast as Gore.

The 49ers offense needs a new workhorse running back, its own version of Seattle’s Lynch. Hyde may be that back. If he is successful, everything else opens up to the offense — that means the passing attack will be better because defenses, especially the Seahawks’ defense, must worry about Hyde.

Hyde is more than running back as battering ram.

In the exhibition game against Baltimore, he dashed around left end for 28 yards, turned that corner. Sweet. He is fast. And big.

And he has good hands. Remember that. Quarterbacks have been throwing the ball to him in training camp. It is an interesting sight. And he catches the ball and runs upfield. With him in the game, the running and passing attacks would benefit. He would be the threat the 49ers need.

He did not appear intimidated by the level of competition against the Ravens. He displayed explosion and good vision into and out of the hole. And he has fresh legs which the Niners need.

Hyde, whom the 49ers took in the second round, is clearly Trent Baalke’s most significant offensive draft pick since he took Colin Kaepernick in the second round in 2011.

Hyde can be a game changer and a team changer.


For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn.pressdemocrat.com.


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  1. Bob In Portland

    I wonder with the league getting more and more pass first if this will give the Niners an advantage with their run game.

    August 10th, 2014 10:55 am

  2. htwaits

    … but only if the offensive line is better this year against top teams — potentially. In Seattle they have been getting stuffed along with Gore

    August 10th, 2014 11:56 am

  3. Brady

    I think one preseason game makes it a little premature to call Hyde “clearly” Baalke’s most important offensive pick in 3 years. Not when Bruce Miller and some potential future stars on the O-Line were drafted.

    Also, Hyde’s big run was 19 yards, not 28.

    August 10th, 2014 1:58 pm

  4. CohnZohn

    Brady, I always hope readers will read carefully. I wrote, quite explicitly, Hyde has the potential to be important, to be Baalke’s best draft choice in a while. Potentially was the key word. I never stated this as fact. Read it again.

    August 10th, 2014 2:38 pm

  5. Brady

    Actually, Lowell, you didn’t. You wrote that he has the potential to be a lot of things: great, most important player, etc. But, in a paragraph all its own, you wrote,

    “Hyde, whom the 49ers took in the second round, is clearly Trent Baalke’s most significant offensive draft pick since he took Colin Kaepernick in the second round in 2011.”

    There is no magic p-word preceding or following that sentence (and even if you had, it would have conflicted the use of the word “clearly.”)

    I did read carefully, and you stated quite explicitly that Hyde is Baalke’s most significant offensive draft pick since Kap.

    August 10th, 2014 2:42 pm

  6. russell

    Brady – you are being a bit picky here, come on man…. – CLEARLY the article talks about potential and what MAY be. You’re splitting of hairs, though technically accurate, fails to account for reading comprehension and intent. Based upon the rest of your comment, I assume you have comprehension skills and understand intent, so as a result I will assume you are being confrontational just for fun.

    Lowell – as to Hyde I think you nailed it. He can be a major force, and for all intents should be as much. There are multiple reports that state the Bills tried to trade up for him, and that many teams coveted him. Were it not for the failure of so many highly drafted RB’s he would have gone much higher. A fantastic pick, though I am pained to state as much being a fan of the other side of the bay.

    August 10th, 2014 8:59 pm

  7. russell

    *your not you’re….uggh.

    August 10th, 2014 9:04 pm

  8. Mark M

    Yes yes and yes. The significance is clear with this run first team. So many people focusing on pass offense but this has always been the engine that makes this offense go. Hyde looked great the other night, and Gore has to be replaced so this piece is dead center correct.

    However, an equally large question mark to that of Gore’s reliability and age, is the effectiveness of the offensive line. They took a step backwards last year. I figured Goodwyn might have been singled out a bit by the staff as the main culprit. But can they really improve with youth, and inexperience? The play in the trenches is never as sexy a topic as the skill players, but it’s at least as important if not moreso.

    August 11th, 2014 9:47 am

  9. Real Neal

    Nice column Lowell, although I disagree with the Boldin comparison. If Boldin was used correctly, like he was with the Ravens, the guy was a stud in the Red zone, although Roman fails to know that or remember that. If we used him more in the red zone and perhaps if Kaep threw him the ball at the end of the Hawk’s game instead of Crab or more importantly at the end of the Super Bowl drive, throwing him the ball instead, of the dumb passes to Crabs, we might of had a 6th Lombardi.

    August 11th, 2014 1:11 pm

  10. Donald

    I’m not going to read this article lowell but my guess with the knowledge you seem to display about football I’m going to guess you don’t really know.

    August 11th, 2014 1:22 pm

  11. Brady

    Russell – I’m not being confrontational just for fun. I genuinely thought that he was stating that Hyde was Baalke’s best offensive draft pick since Kap. It was not clear to me that he meant potentially.

    Maybe that’s me being dumb, but this column is split into paragraphs about facts, and paragraphs about things that could potentially happen. All the other facts – Gore is getting old, Gore needs to be replaced, Hyde has a similar running style, etc. etc. – are indeed facts. Everything else is prefaced with the word “potential” or “can.” Except for this one paragraph that is written as fact but was apparently not meant to be taken as such.

    Look at the final four paragraphs, which I’ve pasted below. The first two are very clearly written as fact, just as the last two are very clearly written as possibility:

    “He did not appear intimidated by the level of competition against the Ravens. He displayed explosion and good vision into and out of the hole. And he has fresh legs which the Niners need.

    Hyde, whom the 49ers took in the second round, is clearly Trent Baalke’s most significant offensive draft pick since he took Colin Kaepernick in the second round in 2011.

    Hyde can be a game changer and a team changer.


    August 12th, 2014 3:01 pm

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