Game planning the 49ers' run strategy for Sunday night's Week 3 showdown against the Green Bay Packers presents a unique challenge.
After Raheem Mostert’s season-ending injury, Kyle Shanahan and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel had their work cut out for them. Then, in the 49ers' Week 2 win in Philadelphia, Elijah Mitchell suffered a shoulder injury, Trey Sermon entered the concussion protocol and JaMycal Hasty suffered a high ankle sprain.
Of the four running backs on the original 53-man roster, none are guaranteed to be available for the 49ers' home opener. Mitchell missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday while Sermon was seen in a blue non-contact jersey at practice.
McDaniel shared that he is encouraged by how Sermon has been feeling, but the 49ers still need to prepare for the possibility of the rookie not being available Sunday since he has been in concussion protocol throughout the week.
In the meantime, Shanahan, McDaniel and running backs coach Bobby Turner are giving a crash course to new additions Trenton Cannon, Kerryon Johnson, Jacques Patrick and Chris Thompson for their possible involvement in the offense Sunday night.
“There's a lot of offense and a lot of plays, so there's a lot of getting up to speed in the process," McDaniel said on Thursday. "The good thing about our offensive is that you can kind of compartmentalize portions of it, learn what you need to learn.
“We’ve got a couple of new guys and that's kind of been the case for everybody. So, it's been fun and it's just opportunities to coach.”
The complexity of Shanahan’s system and the different language each team uses presents a challenge for anyone entering the fold even with a full training camp under their belt. Getting thrust into a game situation without the benefit of camp, or even a full week of practice could be daunting, but McDaniel says it is part of their job to prepare everyone as much as possible.
“There is a part of just preparing what you can call and what you cannot call with certain people,” McDaniel said. “It's a short time span from when they got in the building. So, you want them to operate full speed and be fair to them and let them play fast.
“You don't want to put someone in a position to fail. So, you want to do stuff that your players are comfortable with. So, you make sure that schematically you don't do anything that challenges their brain too much because their job is to carry a football and not get tackled. And it's hard to do that when you're thinking too much.”
McDaniel knows that the more time a player has in the system, the better they will get. The offensive coordinator already has seen Cannon grow more comfortable since his single offensive snap in the win over the Eagles.
As for the other arrivals, the staff will do their best to put them in situations where they have a chance to play fast, which is the most important thing they can ask of their ball carriers.