SANTA CLARA -- Rookie running back Trey Sermon has made noticeable improvements in a short period of time, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Friday afternoon.
Sermon figures to be back in the starting lineup Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks with Elijah Mitchell "questionable" and not likely to be available due to a shoulder injury.
Sermon, a third-round draft pick from Ohio State, has not had a smooth transition to the NFL. He got his shot in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers after injuries to Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty. Mitchell was elevated to the starting role after Mostert sustained a knee injury in Week 1.
“I thought that Elijah did a hell of a job filling in for Raheem, showed that he was more than ready,” Shanahan said on Friday.
“Trey, it took him a while to get up, but he has with these injuries. And I thought he ran the ball a lot better versus Green Bay than he did in the preseason. He had a better week this week than he did last week. And I expect him to keep getting better with the opportunities being given.”
Sermon carried 10 times for 31 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers’ 30-28 loss to the Packers.
Sermon has appeared to find difficulty in running aggressively as he learns the 49ers’ running scheme. Shanahan said Sermon is still figuring out the proper tempo with which to hit the holes.
“Guys who just run full speed through there sometimes, run into the backs of people and can't hit it the right way and they miss a lot of holes and opportunities,” Shanahan said. “And then some guys slow down so much to try to hit it, that you had the holes there and it just passed them. And they got 3 yards instead of 8 yards.”
It was a problem Mostert during his early days with the 49ers, Shanahan said. But Mostert learned how to harness his speed and choose through which lanes to run. Mostert became the team’s leading rusher in 2019. He averaged 5.7 yards a carry in 45 games with the 49ers since 2017.
“That's something Raheem didn't have right away, but holy cow, did he get as good as anyone as I’ve been around at being able to use his speed while getting to the right holes,” Shanahan said. “It takes guys a lot of time.
"And just watching Trey this week, what he's done good or bad in games. You always want to see how they apply it to the next week. The things that I thought he has struggled with that we've tried to get him to focus on, you see him go in to practice and do it.”
Shanahan said he noticed things clicking better for Sermon on the practice field this week as the 49ers prepared to face the Seahawks.
“And I hope it carries over to Sunday,” Shanahan said.