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49ers vs. Cardinals: Does Elijah Mitchell’s absence mean a bigger workload for Christian McCaffrey?

Oct 1, 2023 at 8:34 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers won't list their inactive players until 90 minutes before kickoff. However, running back Elijah Mitchell isn't expected to suit up against the Arizona Cardinals due to a knee injury.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Mitchell and wide receiver Jauan Jennings (shin) were expected to miss today's action. The 49ers listed Mitchell as questionable and Jennings as doubtful, making the latter's absence less surprising.

RELATED Deebo Samuel expected to play vs. Cardinals

The good news is that wide receiver Deebo Samuel is expected to play.

Mitchell sustained his knee injury during Thursday's practice and did not participate during Friday's session.

"Tripped up his knee yesterday at the end of practice," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Friday. "... His knee, got tripped up and dinged his knee."

Mitchell's workload was minimal in the first two games of the season. He played 10 offensive snaps during Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and did not play in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, running back Christian McCaffrey played 58 snaps in Week 1 and 57 snaps during Week 2. That was 85 percent and 100 percent of the offensive snaps in each contest, respectively.

San Francisco involved Mitchell more in Week 3 against the New York Giants. He played 28, or 34 percent, of the offensive snaps in that contest. While McCaffrey was still in on 51 snaps, that was only 61 percent of the offensive snaps, allowing the running back to stay off the field more.

The 49ers appeared to divvy up the running back workload better in Week 3. McCaffrey racked up 268 rushing yards in the first two games. He earned a more modest 85 rushing yards against the Giants. That production may increase today, with Mitchell expected to be sidelined.

The 49ers have two other running backs, both second-year players, on the active roster. The most likely contributor for the upcoming contest is Jordan Mason. There is also Tyrion Davis-Price, but he has been inactive in each of the team's first three games.

Including the postseason, McCaffrey has scored one or more touchdowns in 12 consecutive games. It's the longest active streak in the NFL and tied with wide receiver Jerry Rice for the longest streak in 49ers history. A touchdown against the Cardinals would be a franchise record and would tie Emmitt Smith and Arian Foster for the second-most consecutive games with one or more touchdowns since 1990.

McCaffrey's 353 total rushing yards this season leads the NFL, and his 5.9 yards per attempt is tied for sixth in the league.

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