The San Francisco 49ers are still figuring out what they have in their hands with former Rugby League player Jarryd Hayne, but from his preseason debut it’s safe to say they’re more than pleased.
A big part of Hayne getting so much attention after just one preseason game is how badly Colin Kaepernick performed. One preseason game doesn’t matter all that much, but with the quarterback not doing anything worth remembering (at least not positively), you look elsewhere for positives in a loss to the Houston Texans.
And Haynes was that positive. Listed as a running back, the 49ers are probably going to try and find a lot of use for the 27-year old. He rushed five times for 63 yards, including one big advancement of 53 yards. He was also quite active in the return game, taking one kick 33 yards and 24 yards on two punt returns.
So is he the next big star for the 49ers? His head coach, Jim Tomsula, is trying to calm everyone down.
I’d just like to temper everything. We don’t need to put undue things on Jarryd, undue expectations. It’s not necessary, to me, to put that on his plate right now. I just want him to stay focused on getting better. The guy’s a world-class athlete. Played professional sports for seven, eight, nine years. I guess I’m not as shocked or, I don’t know what the word is, that Jarryd was able to field punts and run, or field kicks and run, or that Jarryd was able to see creases and take them and then get into the open field and avoid tackles. I’ve seen him do all those things. I watched a lot of film on Jarryd Hayne playing rugby.
Hayne himself was excited about his first time on the football field in the NFL, and actually feels relief now that he has debut over with, especially with it being a relatively successful one.
It felt a huge weight lifted. I brought a lot of pressure on myself, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to go out there and look like an American NFL player and I feel like I did that,. I was really excited and it was big too because we ran a play like that a couple of days before and the coach was on to me just to keep in the crease and to let it open up.
The problem for Hayne will be finding himself moving up the depth chart in the running back position. Despite his impressive debut, the trio of Carlos Hyde, Kendall Hunter and Reggie Bush are ahead of him and more likely to get touches. Mike Davis, the rookie and fourth round pick, might also be slightly above Hayne when it comes to running the ball.
That leaves him with special teams. He might be handling the code conversion rather well, but it’s going to take more than one or two preseason performances to make him a constant figure when the snap comes. After an offseason of mostly bad news, 49ers fans are trying to feel optimistic about something, and Hayne brought that to the first preseason game.