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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ backfield situation is beginning to take shape

Aug 20, 2021 at 6:30 PM--

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The running game is an integral part of Head Coach Kyle Shanahan's offensive scheme. Since taking command in 2017, the San Francisco 49ers have averaged 1,940 rushing yards per season. During that span, the 49ers haven't had a single rusher surpass the 1,000 yard mark. Shanahan prefers to use a platoon of running backs with different running styles to keep defenses on their heels and forcing them to adjust their schemes.

The 49ers have made it a point to overhaul the running back group via free agency and the draft. Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are the only remaining running backs that were with the team in 2019, when the 49ers had the second-best rushing attack in the league.

As we head into the second preseason game of the 2021 season, we can begin to see how this group is beginning to develop as a unit.

Raheem Mostert - RB1

Mostert is the veteran leader of the group and looks to have a firm grasp on the starting running back position. Mostert was limited to only eight games last season due to an ankle injury, but still managed to carry the ball 104 times for 521 yards, averaging five yards per carry. Mostert appears to have put the injury behind him and is back to full health. Throughout training camp Mostert has flashed his speed and explosiveness by consistently producing long runs. There is no doubt that he is the best running back on the roster and it will be exciting to see him back this season.

Trey Sermon-RB2

The 49ers utilized serious draft capital to grab Sermon in the third round (88th Pick Overall), and so far he has lived up to the high expectations. Sermon has gotten more reps with the first team offense than any other back, and it's clear he belongs with the starters. He has been impressive making long runs against the first team defense while also displaying his pass-catching ability out of the backfield, which is a threat the 49ers offense has been missing in recent years.

Sermon was the starter in the preseason opener against Kansas City, where he rushed the ball nine times for 26 yards, and added two receptions, on two targets, for 14 yards. He wasn't able to make any big plays, but it was an encouraging debut for a rookie seeing his first NFL action. He did fumble the ball, it was fortunately recovered by 49ers lineman Aaron Banks but that is something he will need to fix if he wants to keep his current role. I look forward to seeing him get more carries in the next preseason game versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

Wayne Gallman-RB3

Gallman was a wild card heading into training camp, the 49ers signed him during free agency and it looked as though he would be utilized in the backfield with Mostert and Wilson Jr. However, after the 49ers drafted two running backs, Gallman's role became less clear as suddenly he was a player needing to fight just to make the team. With injuries hitting the 49ers running back room, Gallman looks like he is the current RB3.

Gallman was the second team running back in the preseason opener, he carried the ball six times for 21 yards, and added a four yard reception. Gallman took care of the ball and has the experience over the younger running backs. Gallman has 338 rushing attempts and 1,444 yards in his career. He is coming off a season where he did a fine job replacing Saquon Barkley in New York, by rushing for 682 yards and six touchdowns. NFL experience will give him an edge, but he will have his work cut out for him if he wants to maintain a contributing role in the backfield.

JaMycal Hasty-RB 3/4

Hasty was selected in the 2020 Draft, and due to unfortunate injuries to starters, he saw more gameday action than anticipated. Hasty played in eight games his rookie season, carrying the ball 39 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. He received a 58.9 overall rating from Pro Football Focus, in his limited sample size. Hasty has looked sharp and appears prepared to fight for his spot on the roster.

Hasty was easily the most impressive running back in the preseason opener, with 10 carries for sixty-three yards and a rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the 49ers a lead. He had two explosive runs, including a 21-yard scamper to the right side. He did lose a fumble, which is something he will need to clean up. Hasty will continue to push Wayne Gallman with two more preseason games to go.

Elijah Mitchell

Mitchell was the second running back drafted by the 49ers in 2021, and has been one of the most impressive players to watch during training camp. He had begun taking reps with the first team offense and making a case for a significant role. His debut was highly anticipated, until he was a surprise scratch before the preseason opener. According to coach Shanahan, Mitchell will be out for "a couple of weeks" with an abductor strain. This is an unfortunate turn of events, which will keep Mitchell off the field and delay his development. Hopefully he will be able to pick up where he left off, but an injury at this point of the season can be a devastating blow to his 2021 campaign.

Jeff Wilson Jr.

Wilson was coming off the best season in his short career in 2020. He played in 12 games, rushing for 600 yards on 126 attempts, and adding seven touchdowns. Coming into the 2021 season, he was kept on the roster and looked primed to play a significant role in the 49ers offense this season. However, Wilson suffered a torn meniscus in May and was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start training camp. After surgery, it appears that Wilson will stay on the PUP at the start of the season, this ensuring he will not be active at any point prior to Week Six. It is unclear what his role, if any, will be in 2021.

This weekend's preseason game against the Chargers should shed more light on this heated competition. Trey Sermon will look to solidify his role as the second back behind Mostert, as Gallman and Hasty continue to battle for their spot in the rotation.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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