The San Francisco 49ers will likely be without their lone bright spot on offense this Sunday.
Running back Carlos Hyde is slated to miss a juicy matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who rank 27th in the league for rushing touchdowns allowed, with an ailing shoulder injury.
Hyde was again absent from the team’s practice on Wednesday, just one day after being spotted heading towards the training facility with his injured arm in a sling.
Although Hyde briefly returned to action last Sunday after hurting his shoulder, the injury has proved to be more serious than originally thought, prompting head coach Chip Kelly to rule out his starter for this week’s contest:
“He’s not going to go. We’ll monitor him during the week, but I think he would be a stretch to play this week.”
Hyde has been the 49ers’ only source of consistency on offense this year, ranking as the league’s 11th leading rusher with 429 yard on 109 carries. His six touchdowns are tied for second-most through the first six weeks.
With an ailing passing offense, Hyde has been the main cog in Kelly’s offensive scheme. Hyde’s 109 rushing attempts — which currently ranks as eighth most in the NFL — have almost compensated for the league’s worst passing attack.
In lieu of Hyde in last Sunday’s game, second-year pro Mike Davis saw the majority of snaps over RB Shaun Draughn, who was Hyde’s main fill-in when he went down with a foot injury last year.
Davis outsnapped Draughn 24-to-5 on Sunday, finishing with 13 yards on five attempts. But Kelly said that Sunday’s game will likely feature a more steady mixture of the two backups, who bring different skill sets to the table:
“I think we’d rotate all of the backs. In that case, Carlos is our every down back. Mike had gone in depending on the situation. Shaun still played a little bit the other day. But, if Carlos can’t go you’ll see both those guys.”
The team will also likely promote RB DuJuan Harris from the practice squad as additional depth.
Hyde’s injury comes at a poor time for the 49ers, as they seek to earn just their second win on the season before the Bye week.
Although Tampa Bay had looked strong against the run earlier in the year, a slew of injuries to their defensive front would have given the 49ers a juicy matchup on Sunday.
Last week, Tampa Bay was without starters Clinton McDonald, Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers. McCoy was limited in practice Wednesday, according to the team’s official injury report, and both McDonald and Ayers missed the week’s first session.
The absence of any number of those players could have opened up the lanes for Hyde to run in Santa Clara.
While Hyde may miss out on his opportunities, the battered defensive front of Tampa Bay will give starter Colin Kaepernick an easier test than last week. Tampa Bay’s defense has sacked the quarterback just nine times this year, as opposed to Buffalo’s 20, which is good enough for second-most in the NFL.
With more time to operate in the pocket and the inability to rely on Hyde, this week may prove to be Kaepernick’s most legitimate test yet.