The 49ers enter a key NFC matchup on Sunday not knowing if they will have the services of their starting running back.
While rookie Elijah Mitchell’s status is uncertain, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan does feel more confident in the depth at the position.
And that includes another rookie, Trey Sermon, whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Sermon gained 32 tough yards on 10 carries in the 49ers’ 30-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Week 11. He picked up a key third down before the half, then had a 23-yard reception to set up a Robbie Gould field goal heading into halftime.
“I think he’s better now than when he was given the last opportunity,” Shanahan said of Sermon on Monday. “He’s been doing each week. He has been earning stuff and improving each week, but there is a pecking order with backs. You can only give so many guys the ball.”
Sermon is the 49ers’ second-leading rusher on the season with 167 yards on 41 rushing attempts. He had two starts early in the season when Mitchell was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
“Elijah has kind of solidified himself as our starter this year,” Shanahan said. “Jeff Wilson has done it since he’s been here, and (JaMycal) Hasty being on the bench and Elijah getting hurt this week opened up an opportunity for him (Sermon) to get some reps again.
“I thought he came in and showed what he’s been showing in practice. He’s been getting better, and I thought he did a good job of helping us win on Sunday.”
Mitchell sustained a fractured right middle finger in the 49ers’ 31-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams last Monday night. Mitchell suffered the injury in the second quarter, and continued to play. He carried the ball 27 times for 91 yards.
He underwent surgery to have a pin inserted into his finger a day later. His status remains uncertain as the 49ers head into a Week 12 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“We thought he was going to have a chance earlier in the week but we could see he wasn’t close by the time we got to Sunday,” Shanahan said of Mitchell. “I couldn’t guess this week.”