Last season was a disappointment for San Francisco 49ers fans as their ‘revenge tour’ didn’t pan out the way they’d have liked it to. The 49ers went from runners-up in Super Bowl LIV to a 6-10 record and bottom of the NFC West and injury problems to the 49ers running backs were a main concern.
Now, with the new season fast approaching, the 49ers will look to leave the past in the past and move on with their new and improved core of running backs. However, with Pro Football Focus ranking their running back group 18th, this year’s bunch have a lot to prove going into what is a big season for the entire organization especially those who are going to see the most action come gameday.
Here’s who will see the most action in the 49ers backfield come the 2021 season.
Expectations for the San Francisco 49ers Running Backs
Raheem Mostert couldn’t replicate his standout year he had in 2019 as he was one of many victims of injuries for the 49ers last season. In the eight games he did play, he was well on his way to leading the team in rushing yards and yards per rush and will look to once again lead the line for the 49ers.
In Week 8 against the New York Jets, Mostert kicked the game off with an 80-yard touchdown – the longest of his career – before leaving the game at halftime with a high ankle sprain. Kyle Shanahan utilized him much more in his offense last season, which will see more run game this season, before Mostert’s injury.
The 29-year-old has shown what flair he’s got, most notably against the Green Bay Packers in the 2019 NFC Championship game where he rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns and will be a key part of the 49ers offense if he stays healthy.
Kyle Juszczyk has become the standout fullback ever since the 49ers gave him the biggest contract for a fullback in NFL history back in 2017. Since then, he’s made a Pro Bowl appearance every season he’s been in the Bay Area and he’ll look to extend that further.
The 30-year-old has been a good target for Jimmy Garoppolo in his time with the 49ers. Despite recording just 19 catches for 202 yards last season, his yards per reception of 10.6 in 2020 is the third best of his eight seasons. His productivity hasn’t gone unnoticed either having signed a five-year contract extension worth $27 million.
Head Scratching Stats of the Day:
Jeff Wilson had 10 TDs last year, Kyle Juszczyk had 6.
They had 37% of the 49ers' TDs in 2020.
Also, Juszczyk was tied for 2nd on the team in REC TDs.
— Jordan Vanek (@JordanVanekDFS) June 16, 2021
Juszczyk will be one of the team’s most important players next season, even if he doesn’t get as much of the ball as someone like George Kittle or Mostert.
Drafted in the third round, Trey Sermon could be just what the 49ers need. Sermon showed out for the Ohio State Buckeyes next to Justin Fields last year in the Big Ten Conference and despite playing in a shortened eight-game season, Sermon gave the best performances of his college career, including rushing his way to Ohio State and NCAA single-game records and a National Championship appearance.
NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco believes that Sermon was a good selection by the 49ers.
“Sermon’s skills match up well for the 49ers’ running game, which leans heavily on their outside zone scheme. He is at his best at stretching his runs to the outside, choosing his hole and cutting sharply up the field.”
Already possessing an NFL frame, Sermon’s good acceleration and capable hands will suit Kyle Shanahan’s offense when he’s called upon. Lining up alongside Justin Fields in the backfield meant Sermon probably didn’t get as much of the ball as he might’ve had he stayed on as an Oklahoma Sooner. Despite this, Sermon promises to be a solid addition to this 49ers team for years to come if his OTAs are anything to go by.
A quick description of Elijah Mitchell in three words: fast, quick, and acceleration. This man is rapid. Mitchell ran a 4.32 40-yard dash – speed which can only be seen in Mostert on the roster. At 5-foot-11 and 200 lbs, the rookie out of Louisiana can run hard and get to his second level of speed extremely quickly.
The one thing going against him is once he gets to that second level, there’s not much change of direction or maneuverability. However, he led his Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns team to a 10-1 record in his senior year, putting up 878 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to earning the First Responder Bowl MVP as the Ragin’ Cajuns beat the UTSA Roadrunners.
In Trey Sermon & Elijah Mitchell, the 49ers have two backs who just refuse to go down, great job from Mitchell here lowering his shoulder into contact and then spinning off the tackle to get into the endzone pic.twitter.com/Tw1ycX7wQq
— Nicholas McGee (@nicholasmcgee24) June 10, 2021
As a sixth-round pick, Shanahan and his staff will be keeping an eye on their selection this offseason to try and see how Mitchell can best fit in the 49ers offensive scheme. If they find a way they like, Mitchell could become a big impact player for the 49ers this season.
A new addition to the Niners this year, Wayne Gallman is coming off his best season with the New York Giants. Having been Saquon Barkley’s backup for most of his career so far, Gallman was given the starting job after Week 2 following a torn ACL for Barkley.
He made the most of the opportunity, putting up career-high numbers in yards (682), yards per rush (4.6), yards per game (45.5) and six touchdowns for good measure. However, only on a one-year contract, Gallman will have a lot to prove in a competitive environment with Raheem Mostert looking to get back to his 2019 form and Trey Sermon looking to stamp his mark on the NFL.
It’s entirely possible Gallman could be cut before the season even starts since he has no guaranteed money in his one-year deal and veteran Jeff Wilson Jr. will come back from a torn meniscus halfway through the season. Before then, he’ll want to show the coaching staff at the 49ers how important he can be to the team.
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