San Francisco 49ers

Run and Hyde: 49ers to use more zone blocking this season

San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) tries to avoid a tackle by Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright, left, in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Seattle.
San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) tries to avoid a tackle by Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright, left, in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Seattle. AP

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers will not abandon the power-blocking concepts that have been the foundation of their offense in recent years. But they are adding on new, zone concepts that worked well for offensive line coach Chris Foerster at his previous stop in Washington.

That team finished first in the NFL in rushing in 2012, averaging 169.3 yards per game. Quarterback Robert Griffin III added 815 yards that season. But the year also ended with Griffin in the operating room with ACL and LCL injuries. Quarterback runs certainly will be part of the 49ers' attack in 2015, but probably will not be a bedrock component like they were in Washington in 2012.

A better comparison might be the teams' respective lead running backs. Washington's Alfred Morris stands 5-10 and weighs 224 pounds. The 49ers' Carlos Hyde goes 6-0 and this year is expected to play in the mid 220-pound range after being heavier as a rookie last year. Hyde ran his 40-yards dash before the draft in 4.66 seconds; Morris was clocked at 4.67 seconds.

The key to Morris' success in recent years -- he had 1,613 yards in 2012 -- is his combination of power and quickness. He's shown an ability to both run between the tackles and to start down the line of scrimmage before cutting downfield on zone-stretch type plays.

Hyde also has deceptively light feet and the ability to cut and go. That he has lost about 10 pounds from last year's playing weight ought to make him even more nimble and a better asset on the stretch plays that Morris ran with Washington.

It's unknown at this point what the ratio will be between the zone-blocking concepts and the traditional power running the 49ers did so well in previous years. Left tackle Joe Staley noted the team worked extensively on zone running in the spring because it was new, but that the true game plan won't be known until August.

"We'll implement some of that stuff, like the stretch zone more so than we have in the past," Staley said. "But we're still going to do what we've done well here. What's worked for us has been power running. It's what we know. We'll definitely implement all styles."

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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