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The 49ers Have Found Their “Bell-Cow” Running Back 

49ers running back Elijah Mitchell suffered a sprained MCL in Week One against Chicago and is likely out for another month. However, Jeff Wilson Jr. has done a phenomenal job as the number-one running back in Mitchell’s place.

Deja Vu With 49ers Running Back Injuries

The 49ers are in a similar situation to last year when they lost Raheem Mostert for the season in Week One against Detroit. A rookie, Elijah Mitchell had to step in as the top running back for the 2021 season. In relief of Mostert, Mitchell put together a solid season rushing for 963 yards, five touchdowns, and no fumbles. Additionally, he added 19 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown in the passing game.

Mitchell was one of the many “saving graces” of the 2021 season as Kyle Shanahan needed a productive rushing attack with the lack of a passing game with Jimmy Garoppolo. Mitchell averaged 4.7 yards/carry, which is well above the NFL average. This year, however, Mitchell suffered an injury against Chicago and was ruled out for a minimum of eight weeks.


Great blocking up front from everyone on the 49ers offense You can highlight essentially any blocker on this play but specifically watch Brunskill get to 2nd-level and McGlinchey wall-off the 3T that generates a big hole for Jeff Wilson Jr pic.twitter.com/s5D1ck7V8o — Brad (@Graham_SFN) October 11, 2022

The 49ers Love Drafting Running Backs

Over the past two seasons, San Francisco added more running backs to their roster than ever before. Since the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers have added four running backs, Trey Sermon, Elijah Mitchell, Ty Davis-Price and Jordan Mason. This is interesting because Jeff Wilson Jr. became the longest-tenured player in the position group.

Many thought Wilson was going to be cut, however, the 49ers chose to cut their former third-round draft choice, Trey Sermon, instead. This was a tough decision to make, however, it paid off.

Jeff Wilson Jr. And His Production Thus Far

In Week Two, San Francisco featured two running backs, Jeff Wilson Jr and Ty Davis-Price, a rookie out of Louisiana State University. Unfortunately, Davis-Price went down with a high ankle sprain and has missed the last three games, leaving the job to Jeff Wilson Jr. exclusively.


But now this is Jeff Wilson Jr’s. job and so far he has delivered. You could refer to Wilson as their “bell cow” running back. A “bell-cow” running back is considered a player that takes a majority of the running and passing snaps with little rest. Since Week Two, Wilson has averaged 17 rushing attempts/game, which in today’s NFL is a large number of attempts.

The 49ers will need to continue running the football efficiently to keep the offense moving. It is important to note that with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have a record of 9-13 or (.409 or 40.9%) when throwing more passes than runs and 23-1 (.960 or 96%) when running more than passing (including playoffs since 2018).


Falcons' rushing defense ranks: * Yards Per Carry: 19th * DVOA: 27th * Adjusted Line Yards: 28th * EPA/Play: 30th * Success Rate: 31st Jeff Wilson Jr. and Tevin Coleman on deck for good performances on Sunday. — Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 12, 2022

A major key to another win will be the rushing attack. Kyle Shanahan continues to scheme up big runs and they are working. The 49ers will want to carry momentum into Week Seven where the Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes await the best defense in the NFL.

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