Sitting bottom of the NFC West at 1-4 is a sobering introduction to the world of American football for Jarryd Hayne. Throughout his first 5 weeks we have seen glimpses of the form that saw him light up preseason and observers were hopeful the Hayne Plane would be reaching maximum altitude.
An injury to Reggie Bush appeared to have opened a door for Hayne to show coach Jim Tomsula what he is capable of. Unfortunately for him, Carlos Hyde is the go-to man for the 49ers for running yards by racking up 83 carries with 3 touchdowns.
If he was hoping to impress on special teams, DeAndrew White and Bruce Ellington have both averaged over 20 yards per punt return. A losing team needs as many reliable outlets as possible and right now the franchise can’t afford for Hayne to be learning on the job.
The transition from rugby league to the NFL always required a bedding-in period. The 27-year-old will be utilising every training session and match scenario to develop an understanding of where he can inject himself into a game.
Switching to a sport with various nuances and intricate plays requires simplification. Hayne’s dual role of running back and punt returner are duties he has excelled in with the Parramatta Eels.
As fullback, he would gather the high ball and find gaps between a staggered defensive line. And as a modern NRL number 1, Hayne slotted into first or second receiver to create breaks in midfield. Besides the obvious, only a definitive stoppage in play differentiates the two. The natural continuation of play in rugby league contrasts starkly to become a bit part role player across a 53-man roster.
- Has versatility
It’s a show of faith from the coaching staff that the Aussie has been given a dual role in the squad. NRL aficionados are aware of his strengths – the speed, agility in movement, palming ability and calmness under pressure. He must be impressing on the training ground because Tomsula is using Hayne under different game scenarios as a running back and punt returner. 5 games in the boy from Sydney is being used as a jack-of-all-trades rather than a master of one.
- Needs to get equipped to breaks in play
You could sense the nerves and anticipation for that first game against the Vikings. 12 months of meticulous planning and preparation came down to the first punt return, millions of eyes glued to the screen. The fumble was a mental lapse on the back of waiting patiently on the sidelines. Adapting from an 80-minute sport that is all action into the NFL is a simple mental adjustment.
- Using leg drive well
The pure statistics of Hayne’s performance on Monday against the New York Giants don’t tell the complete story. His first drive deep into the Giants red zone secured the gain that resulted in a touchdown, a drive that was achieved on the back of some serious leg drive. No one has ever questioned Hayne’s lower body strength, but on this occasion he withstood serious pressure from a hoard of blue jerseys to push through inch by inch. It was a run of sheer determination which will keep him in good stead.
- Carlos Hyde Dominating 49ers Offence
While Hayne is getting accustomed to his new surroundings, Carlos Hyde is picking up the slack for his team on offence. The 49ers have struggled badly to prevent the opposition driving towards their end zone, yet it’s Hyde who is making the runs running from the pocket that is keeping San Francisco competitive. But the fact is Tomsula, who is under significant pressure at the moment, will want to save Hyde for the clutch plays so Hayne will have his opportunities.
- Aussies prouder than ever
49ers games are trending with regularity as locals tune into 7mate, ESPN or streaming the matches live on the NFL mobile and tablet devices. Hayne Mania cracked fever pitch during his first hit out, being interviewed by everyone and anyone who could get a phone line to the guy. His embrace and display of the Australian flag illustrated that he is well aware of the significance of his personal achievement. The only question now is whether he can solidify himself as a regular asset for the franchise.