2017 and Beyond: The Three Most Important 49ers to Watch in Training Camp (Number Three)

Jul 25, 2017 at 6:51 AM0


49ers training camp is nearly here, and with it comes the opportunity for coaches, media, and fans alike to assess the team's roster. Over the next three days, I'll name the three players I believe are the most important to the growth of the team moving forward. I'll make my case for each selection and what their performances could mean to the 49ers in the future.

We'll start with my choice for the third most important player for the 49ers' rise back to relevance: Joe Williams. To be clear, running back is not the most important position in the offense. The most important positions in any offense tend to be quarterback and left tackle. Here's the thing: neither of those positions are being developed for the future right now, for completely opposite reasons.

The 49ers have Joe Staley at left tackle. He is already the established starter, and he is already very good. There is no question that he is an equally adept pass protector and run blocker, who has elite athleticism for the position to stay in front of an opponent's best pass rusher and to execute the difficult reach block demanded of him in an outside zone offense. Staley will be great in this offense until he chooses to retire, and I think he'll stick around for a few years to be a part of the 49ers returning to championship contention.

Brian Hoyer is the 49ers quarterback this year, and it is a long shot that he'll be their quarterback three years from now. His experience in Kyle Shanahan's offense makes him a useful tool in evaluating the skill positions across the rest of the offense, but he has done little in his career to this point to suggest that the 49ers should stop looking for the long-term answer at quarterback. I'd be surprised if he heads into the 2018 season without competition for the position.

The running game has to be effective for Shanahan's offense to function at peak performance. His painstaking efforts to ensure that many of his pass plays are initially indistinguishable from his run plays will only keep a defense off balance if the run and pass are equally threatening. More than many other offenses in the NFL, the 49ers will place great importance on their ground game. So, why Joe Williams? It's unlikely he will start at running back when the season opens, but he fits the offense well, and both Kyle Shanahan and the Shanahan family's legendary running back coach, Bobby Turner, stood on the table for him in the draft room. Williams is a decisive one-cut runner with uncommon burst and top end speed for a back his size. He is a home run threat, and he is also capable of running behind his pads to grind out tough yards inside.

Unquestionably, the starting running back role is Carlos Hyde's job to lose, but Hyde is in a contract year, and his immense talent is mired with questions about consistent production and reliable durability. If Hyde has a great year, the 49ers would have to pay a steep price to keep him, which would not likely fit the pay structure in a Shanahan offense that might have to stretch to fit a record-breaking quarterback salary next spring, should Kirk Cousins finally shake free of Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen in Washington. If Hyde struggles, his price tag would be lower, but the 49ers would likely want to move on to a younger, more productive option. Carlos Hyde's future with the 49ers beyond 2017 depends less upon his own production and more upon the performance of Joe Williams.

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports


If Williams can accurately read the bounce/bang/bend options presented to him in each outside zone run quickly and make decisive, full speed cuts upfield, he could make Hyde unnecessary. He has the speed to threaten the edges of the defense when he bounces the play, and he has the agility/power combination that Shanahan seeks when he describes backs who can create and run through arm tackles.

Williams might not be proficient yet as an NFL pass protector, but the presence of Tim Hightower as a third down back could allow Williams time to develop his skills in blitz pickup, as well as route running and catching.

Williams will get his opportunities to impress this year. Unlike his father, Mike, Kyle doesn't usually identify one adept runner and feed him a staggering volume of carries. Given the talent, Kyle has shown a preference to divide his carries between two backs, and Williams will almost certainly be one of those backs this year. If the 49ers' run game stays as effective with Williams in the game, and the threat of his big play ability keeps opposing linebackers overreacting to his run fakes in play action, Williams will likely be the 49ers' featured runner in 2018 and beyond.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers-Cardinals: How to watch, stream, and listen to the Week 5 matchup

By Site Staff
Oct 6

After two consecutive losses at home, the San Francisco 49ers hope to turn things around on the road against the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals. The Niners look to improve to 33-27 overall against the division foe. The Bay Area squad has won three of the past four matchups between the two teams. The 49ers have also won each of the previous two meetings at State Farm Stadium. San Francisco is coming off a 21-28 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium. Arizona is undefeated and coming off a 37-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel finished the game with eight receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns, marking his first



49ers remaining positive despite three-game losing streak

By Kirk Larrabee
Oct 10

The San Francisco 49ers aren't anywhere near where they want to be five games into the regular season, but they're also not exactly down on themselves either as their bye week gets underway. The 49ers fell 17-10 to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, which marked their third consecutive loss after opening the season with wins over the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. The loss sent the 49ers to 2-3 on the year after defeats at the hands of the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks in previous weeks, and at the moment they face a sizable deficit in the NFC West behind the 5-0 Cardinals and 4-1 Los Angeles Rams. They're also dealing with a long list of injuries, most notably those to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (calf), tight end George Kittle (calf), running



49ers practice and media schedule leading to Week 5 matchup vs. Cardinals

By Site Staff
Oct 5

The San Francisco 49ers will hold three full practices this week as the team prepares for its Week 5 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Kyle Shanahan, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, and various players are scheduled to speak with the media. The 49ers will make the press conferences available at 49ers.com, on the team's official mobile app, and YouTube page. Below is the schedule, which is subject to change, for the upcoming



San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals odds and pick - Week 5, 2021

By Winston Chung
Oct 5

The San Francisco 49ers' stock went from potential contenders to hoping for a playoff spot during their two-game, home losing streak and will now go on the road to challenge the lone undefeated team in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals, whose stock could not be higher. Here we discuss the odds and analysis from a betting perspective. When: Sunday October 10th, 2021 1:25pm PT (FOX) Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona Line: 49ers +5.5, over/under 50.5 Arizona Cardinals The Arizona Cardinals are coming off of their biggest win of the season after going into the Los Angeles Rams' home as 4-point underdogs and completely smashing LA by the score of 37-20 to emerge on top of the NFC West and the only undefeated team


Featured

More by Aaron Erickson

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone