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49ers “to deploy more of a backs-by-committee approach” in 2022, according to insider

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jul 23, 2022 at 12:00 PM--

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In 2021, the San Francisco 49ers were severely depleted at the running back position, with rotation players Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., and Trey Sermon all missing portions of the season with injuries.

That led to a difference in strategy by the 49ers, who utilized rookie running back Elijah Mitchell heavily, as the Louisiana product rushed 207 times for 963 yards and five touchdowns in 2021.

In fact, it was the first time since 2017, the beginning of the Shanahan-Lynch era, that the 49ers had a 200+ carry rusher, when Carlos Hyde rushed 240 times.

Since then, no running back had eclipsed the 156 carry mark, until Mitchell accomplished the feat in 2021.

What made the number even more impressive is that Mitchell reached 207 carries in just 11 total games, as he himself suffered numerous injuries during the course of the season.

Now, in 2022, the 49ers are determined to return to their original rushing plan, according to 49ers insider Matt Maiocco.

"The influx of running backs over the past two drafts makes for what should be an interesting competition at running back, as coach Kyle Shanahan appears determined to deploy more of a backs-by-committee approach," Maiocco said.

On paper, that theory makes sense.

The 49ers drafted running back Ty Davis-Price in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, adding to a group that now includes a healthy Trey Sermon, Jeff Wilson Jr., and Elijah Mitchell, as well as undrafted free agent Jordan Mason.

Mitchell's numerous injuries could prompt a decrease in usage during 2022 in an effort to keep the second-year running back healthier for the upcoming campaign, leading the way for other members of the position group to share some of the spotlight.

It's also interesting to note the variety of skillsets within the running back room.

Mitchell was primarily featured as an outside-zone rusher in 2022, seeing his best success when running behind left tackle Trent Williams, utilizing his speed to get yards outside the numbers.

Davis-Price, on the other hand, appears to be more of a short-yardage rusher. While he doesn't possess the long speed of Mitchell, he has elite explosiveness—showcased by his excellent 1.53 10-yard split—and a burly 6'1, 220-pound frame that should help him sustain hits at the NFL level.

Sermon is more of an agile rusher, trimming down his weight over the past year in exchange for more shiftiness, which has been on display in several workout videos of him alongside other NFL running backs.

Mason, an undrafted free agent from Georgia Tech, is a jack-of-all-trades, possessing size, speed, and the receiving ability to potentially make him a competent third-down threat in the NFL.

With several running backs with differing skillsets, it appears that the 49ers will return to their backs-by-committee form in 2022, as long as injuries don't thwart the position group as they did a year ago.

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