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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Heavily utilized Christian McCaffrey continues to impress Kyle Shanahan, 49ers

Oct 2, 2023 at 4:26 PM--

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Christian McCaffrey immediately impacted the San Francisco 49ers last season after the Carolina Panthers shipped him to the Bay Area team. The star running back was a key component behind San Francisco's impressive win streak, one that didn't end until the NFC Championship Game.

Everyone figured McCaffrey would once again be stellar this season. However, the running back may be turning in an MVP-like performance. McCaffrey has racked up a league-leading 459 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns on 80 carries. He also has 18 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown. His 98 touches, 600 all-purpose yards, and seven total touchdowns lead the NFL.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to reporters via a conference call on Monday afternoon. He was asked about McCaffrey's rushing ability this season and the running back's ability to find and hit the holes within the coach's offensive system. Is McCaffrey actually better at that than he was last season?

"It's tough to say because I thought he was so good last year at it, too," Shanahan responded. "But I do think he's gotten better. I think he just understands it more as a whole. Not that he didn't last year, but I think this stuff comes pretty natural to Christian.

"But he also works at it harder than any player I've been around. He doesn't just try to figure out what he's supposed to do. He understands the package of everybody, and that's why he picks things up fast. And so he's been pretty interchangeable at all the spots we put him at."

McCaffrey had five runs of 10 or more yards on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. That's the most of any player so far in Week 4. McCaffrey gained a first down in one of every four carries. The running back finished the game with 177 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns.

McCaffrey was in on 85 percent of the snaps against the Cardinals. That's a significant workload for the veteran running back. Some fear the punishment may eventually catch up to McCaffrey. However, pulling him out of the game can be challenging given his play-making ability.

"Yeah, it's always hard," Shanahan shared. "We did it for a couple of drives, but we still put him back in on third down. I don't even know the numbers here, but I want to say he had 30-something plays (47 offensive snaps, 20 carries, eight targets). ... It was only 55 plays in the game, which was smaller. And yes, we would love to have him [receive] a little bit more rest, but he is extremely tough to take out."

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