In the Mile-High City, the San Francisco 49ers offense mostly kept the ball on the ground on Wednesday.
And while Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Mike Davis and Jarryd Hayne all got their reps, the featured runner for the first day of the team’s joint practices with the Denver Broncos was none other than Kendall Hunter.
It appears as if Hunter, who missed 2014 with an ACL injury, has little-to-no lingering effects from the lost season.
The fifth-year running back began team periods with the first unit and went on to receive a hefty amount of touches. He recorded several lengthy carries, cutting up the field with ease. He also caught a couple passes out of the backfield and deployed some nifty moves to get past the first wave of defenders. Denver's front seven includes the likes of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. Hunter ranks below Hyde and Bush on our RB list.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick appeared to show his most progress with touch on his passes throughout the day. And he finished strong with his final throw resulting in a 21-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis along the back line of the end zone between the tight coverage of cornerback Tramaine Brock and safety Craig Dahl.
During a 7-on-7 drill, Kaepernick displayed a variety of different throws. He lofted soft passes to running back Reggie Bush and rookie tight end Blake Bell for scores. And he drilled a throw to Anquan Boldin between the coverage of Shayne Skov and Corey Lemonier.
It was reported earlier in the offseason that the team planned to utilize Kaepernick’s running ability to a greater degree. Kaepernick ran the ball 12 more times in 2014 than he did in 2013 for an additional 115 yards, so it's not like he abandoned the scramble. It sounds like it's more about utilizing the read-option as a larger part of the offense. If that's the case, it could be a boon to Kaepernick's fantasy value. He was the #14 QB in 2014 after finishing #9 the season before, though his overall production only dipped by 11 fantasy points. He's a bounceback candidate provided new OC Geep Chryst can design an offense that can move the ball. Chryst previously served as the OC for the Chargers in 1999 and 2000, but his offenses ranked 26th and 28th overall in that span. Any gains that Kaepernick can make as a thrower (due to his offseason work with QB coach Dennis Gile and former Rams/Cardinals QB Kurt Warner) will only help his overall value.
Sunday, August 2, 2015, 9:37am
Some 49ers notes from Saturday's practice:
- QB Colin Kaepernick had an uneven practice, but when he was on, the results were pretty. Such as the time he hooked up with WR Torrey Smith deep down the right side, beating Marcus Cromartie on a particularly nice throw. But Kaepernick also seemed to revert on a couple of passes, such as the deep ball down the left side that wobbled as it approached Bruce Ellington, giving Kenneth Acker time to react and knock it down. Smith also had an acrobatic one-handed grab on a Kaepernick out pass to the left sideline.
- Someone who did not necessarily shine? Tight end Vernon Davis, who had a drop and also a miscommunication with Kaepernick. Davis was still running in the middle of the field and looking toward the end zone as the ball landed at his side.
- Running back Reggie Bush was held out by coach Jim Tomsula after the rookie coach saw the 10th-year veteran getting in some extra stretching. "I'm not going to wait to see Reggie tired and (then) give him a break," Tomsula said. "He's been doing this for a long time. Our goal is to not get Reggie tired. He's in shape."
The 49ers look to replace the franchise’s all-time leading rusher (Gore) with more than one person. Carlos Hyde is best-suited to be the back on base downs and short-yardage situations. Reggie Bush, a free-agent pickup, and Kendall Hunter can play base downs behind Hyde, but they might be better-suited as third-down backs.
Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde's upside may be somewhat limited. Expect 250 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game. That may be his ceiling with Bush (along with Kendall Hunter and rookie Mike Davis) eating away at his snaps.
Lions beat writer Michael Rothstein (of ESPN) projects Joique Bell to start over Ameer Abdullah, adding, "The Lions ranked 28th in rushing last season, but Bell had a career year putting up 860 yards with seven touchdowns."
Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. He should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Abdullah is a concern.
The Lions were about a 58-42 pass to run team last season. HC Jim aldwell wants that number closer to 50-50.
Caldwell wants to run the ball more consistently and that couldn’t be more evident than with the selection of guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round and running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round.
Abdullah is going to play a similar role as Reggie Bush did in this offense and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets somewhere in the range of 15 touches per game as a runner and pass catcher.
Joique Bell was the team's leading rusher last year and averaged about 15 carries per game. If Abdullah is as good as the Lions think he’ll be, I’m guessing he gets around 15 touches per game early in the season and potentially builds on that as the year goes on.
We currently project Abdullah for 11.3 touches per game (3.6 catches), so Twentyman's projection is aggressive. The Lions are going to have to get closer to that aforementioned 50/50 split if they're going to support both Abdullah and Bell as viable fantasy starters. If he meets these expectations, Abdullah is shaping up as a nice value in the late 4th or 5th round.
Brandin Cooks should emerge as the Saints’ No. 1 receiver on deep throws and short stuff like screens and end-arounds, while C.J. Spiller should catch 60-plus passes out of the backfield in the mold of Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush.
We project Spiller to catch 68 passes, so this prediction falls right in line with what we're expecting from Spiller in 2015. Be sure to read Sr. Editor John Paulsen's case for Spiller in New Orleans.
Lions RB Joique Bell missed most of last spring’s workouts recovering from an injury and had the best statistical season of his career, but there seems to be more concern this time around with Bell. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said during OTAs that while the team expects Bell to fully recover from his knee and Achilles injuries from last season, there is concern until they see him back on the field.
Bell recently predicted a 1,200-yard season, so he doesn't seem to be too worried about his health. Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. If healthy, he should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Ameer Abdullah is a concern.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 12:55pm
Kendall Hunter’s season was over before it started in 2014. The San Francisco 49ers running back tore his ACL on the first day of the training camp, halting the ball-carrier's growth as a fixture in the offense.
That excitement is beginning to crescendo again, however, with San Francisco's 2015 training camp just weeks away. Hunter had a fantastic offseason program, highlighted by the three-day veteran’s minicamp where he showcased his quick feet and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Each day Hunter made a play or two that had the sidelines buzzing.
“He’s coming along great,” Jim Tomsula said following the minicamp. “I think we all have strong feelings for Kendall… but we definitely have a rep count on him. You’ve got to keep him corralled, but he’s moving around really quick.”
Hunter said mental reps have helped him transition nicely into the 49ers new-look, up-tempo offense under Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, according to the story. Hunter will be a featured piece in that offensive scheme as one of the ball carriers in the team’s running back by committee. He’ll likely split carries primarily with second-year back Carlos Hyde and veteran free-agent Reggie Bush, the story said. But Hunter ranks just 83rd on our list of RBs, as we think Hyde gets a bulk of the work with Bush a big part of pass-catching. Hyde ranks 19th on our list and presents a much better value at this point.
Detroit has thrown the ball more than it has rushed it every season since 2001 according to ESPN Stats & Information. The closest the Detroit Lions have come to "balance" was in 2004, when Detroit ran the ball 407 times and attempted 505 passes.
In Detroit's more successful seasons, the Lions have trended much heavier toward the pass. In 2011, one of the two seasons Detroit made the playoffs this century, the Lions rushed the ball 356 times and had 666 passing attempts, completing 423 of them.
Last season, Detroit ran the ball 396 times and threw it 604 times, completing 365 passes. So while the Lions appeared to focus their draft on improving a run game that had its worst yards per carry since 2003, don't expect to see a massive play-call shift.
"It's all quarterbacking," former NFL QB Elvis Grbac said. "I got in a league where Drew Bledsoe was starting to come in and just in the last 10 years, retired since 2001, so it's been some time. But just the league in general, it's quarterback-driven. If you don't have a quarterback, you're screwed."
The story went on to say: A 50-50 split hasn't been typical for Jim Caldwell historically. In his three seasons as head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts never rushed more than 393 times in a season. They never threw less than 534 times in a year, and that was in 2011 when Peyton Manning was injured. The only sample size in which a team coordinated or led by Caldwell has had more runs than passes came during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012, when Caldwell took over leading into Week 15. Through the final three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens ran the ball 249 times and passed it 235 times. The following season was more in line with what happened in Indianapolis, where Baltimore had 423 rushes to 619 passes.
Much of the same is expected this year, and the story mentioned how Grbac thinks QB Matthew Stafford has progressed nicely in the offense. The team lost pass-catching RB Reggie Bush, but seems to have a more than capable replacement in Ameer Abdullah, who looks like he's going to hurt the value of Theo Riddick. Both Joique Bell and Abdullah crack our top-31 backs, with Abdullah having top-25 potential in PPR leagues. Stafford is just 13th on our QB list, but if WR Calvin Johnson can stay healthy Stafford could crack the top-10 and be a nice value at QB with an ADP of the ninth round.
Just like in the game of cards, jokers are amazing weapons in football because they don’t fit into the book easily when it comes to figuring out ways to defend them.
It is often used to describe the difficult to handle tight ends, but I think we can also list the running backs who aren’t actually running backs. Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, maybe even Randall Cobb, and yes, the Cowboys hope, Lance Dunbar is at least a “poor man’s” version of that. He is listed as a running back, but if we judge him as running backs are judged, we will quickly be underwhelmed with his running the ball (especially inside) and his pass protection. Both are just not up to the NFL grade.
This is a very detailed story breaking down Dunbar's strengths and weaknesses. The article goes on to say the Cowboys remain convinced that his role must be expanded as a weapon used in ways that are simply difficult to account for by a defense. The author added Dunbar as a runner has a 2-year track record of A) not getting the ball as a RB and B) not being productive enough to compel the staff to give him the ball more. But, he pointed out a Dunbar-led attack helped to knock off Seattle on the road last year, however he wasn't used much after that. The story also says his pass protection is suspect and the team doesn't appear to want to simply hand him the ball as a RB. He's capable of big plays, but probably not consistent fantasy points. Joseph Randle is ranked 24th on our RB list and is expected to at least split carries with Darren McFadden.
Lions RB Joique Bell isn't worried about the knee injury that has sidelined him for the entirety of this offseason. He isn't worried about the Achilles either.
He really, really isn't.
Bell is so confident about this season, in fact, that he's predicting he'll become the second Detroit Lions running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards since 2004 -- and then some.
"I'm going to rush for over 1,200 yards," Bell told MLive.com. "That's the minimum. If I do less than that, I'll be surprised. I'll be disappointed.
"Anything more than that, I wouldn't be surprised at all."
Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. He should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Ameer Abdullah is a concern. Abdullah has shined with Bell sitting out of offseason activities, but Bell should still see 14-15 touches per game.
Carlos Hyde missed a lot of the offseason program with a relatively minor leg issue.
That left Reggie Bush to take the first running rep during drills and he reportedly looked strong. Hyde still projects as the early-down starter come Week 1, but his workload will be nibbled into by Bush, rookie Mike Davis and a healthy Kendall Hunter. And if the 49ers end up trailing a lot this season as they very well could, Bush will be logging the majority of snaps as the passing back.
Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde's upside may be somewhat limited. Expect 240 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game. As for Bush, anytime he stays healthy, he's a factor in PPR formats. He has appeared in 14 or more games in five of his nine NFL seasons, and has finished in the top 14 in PPR leagues in four of those five seasons.
49ers writer Tyler Emerick said that RB Reggie Bush was the team's best free agent addition:
If you’ve followed our offseason coverage, you’ve heard Trent Baalke, Jim Tomsula, Tom Rathman, Geep Chryst and Kaepernick all express the same sentiment: Bush, at 30 years old, looks every bit as explosive as ever. The active leader in receptions by a running back with 466 career catches, Bush has urged the 49ers to get him the ball in space. This offseason, that translated not only into the 10th-year pro catching passes out of the backfield, but also getting carries on stretch plays and returning kicks and punts on special teams. Bush sounds like a man with something to prove, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Bush is expected to fill a third-down role since it looks like Carlos Hyde is ready to carry most of the rushing load, though Jim Tomsula's comments (about Bush being “a runner...not a gadget guy”) indicate that Bush's presence should be a concern for Hyde owners who were initially excited about the young back's opportunity with Frank Gore gone. The 49ers don't typically use their running backs in the passing game, though longtime OC Greg Roman is gone and new OC Geep Chryst may have a different plan in mind.
The Cowboys' intrigue with Lance Dunbar has been long-running. He might not be an every-down back, but he can be part of a committee. They like what he can do in space. They believe he can be a mismatch player for defenses. Before arriving from the Detroit Lions, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had two running backs catch more than 50 passes in a season. Linehan sees Dunbar being able to do some of what Reggie Bush and Joique Bell did in 2013 in Detroit.
"Sometimes he doesn't play as many plays as some of the other guys, but when you look at his production within the plays that he has, it's usually pretty good," coach Jason Garrett said. "He's usually a difference maker. He's a really smart football player. He's talented. He's quick. He's fast and explosive, has great intuition and instincts for the game. We try to use him a lot of different ways, and when we have used him he's been effective for us. You're always trying to give those guys more opportunities."
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