Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan shares why opposing defenses may underestimate Elijah Mitchell

Oct 30, 2021 at 9:10 AM--

Elijah Mitchell looks to earn his second consecutive game with over 100 yards rushing and his third game doing so this season. The San Francisco 49ers rookie running back could tie the franchise record for the most games by a rookie with over 100 rushing yards (QB Billy Kilmer - 3 in 1961). He would also be the first 49ers player with at least 100 yards rushing in consecutive games since Matt Breida accomplished the feat in Weeks 10 and 12 (Week 11 bye) of the 2018 season.

San Francisco opened Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts with an impressive eight-play and 78-yard scoring drive that Mitchell capped off with a 14-yard run into the end zone. The rookie contributed five carries for 57 rushing yards on the drive, and 93 of his total rushing yards came in the first half.

This week, head coach Kyle Shanahan sat down with NBC Sports Bay Area and discussed his sixth-round draft pick.

"He's a natural runner," Shanahan told Greg Papa. "He doesn't miss many holes, and I thought we gave him some pretty good holes on that first drive. And he hit every one of them and made more after it, and then ended up getting in the end zone on a big one."

Shanahan moved away from Mitchell as the game progressed. The 49ers coach later explained that the offense's inability to convert third downs made it challenging to establish a rhythm for Mitchell.

Shanahan acknowledges that opposing defenses could underestimate the rookie rusher.

"Elijah's very tough, very natural, and he comes off as a smaller back, but he's heavier than people think," Shanahan shared. "And the fact that he is heavier than people think, and he also has a mentality, which allows him to play a little bit bigger than he appears."

Sunday could feature Mitchell with a healthy mix of JaMycal Hasty. We'll see if the team's other rookie running back, Trey Sermon, a third-round pick, gets more involved. He didn't have an offensive snap against the Colts and had just two in the previous game.

"We've got three young backs," Shanahan said, "and we're really happy with all three of them. They got a lot thrown on their plate a little earlier than expected. [We] went into this year counting on Raheem [Mostert], and we lost him on the second play [of Week 1].

"And Jeff Wilson was a big back for us, that we expected to be our number two. We thought we could bring these guys along slowly. And the way Jeff ended up last year, he was a hell of a third-down back. But losing him in OTAs, in that freak accident in the locker room, it was unfortunate."

That makes Mitchell the de facto starter going forward. He and the rest of the team's running backs hope to help turn things around for the struggling 49ers this weekend against the Chicago Bears, snapping a four-game losing streak.

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