5 SF 49ers players to watch in Week 1 vs. Cardinals
By Timmy Gibson
No 1: SF 49ers Running Back Jerick McKinnon
It’s hard to find pictures of Jerick McKinnon in a 49ers uniform. That’s probably because, despite being on the team for two years, McKinnon has still yet to play in a regular-season game for the San Francisco.
McKinnon signed with the 49ers two years ago from the Minnesota Vikings. He was thought to be a great fit for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, as Shanahan loves to use his running backs in the passing game as well as the running game, and McKinnon is an established pass-catcher.
It all fell apart as McKinnon tore his ACL in his first offseason with the 49ers. The next offseason, McKinnon injured his knee again and missed that entire year as well.
Now, we are about to enter McKinnon’s first regular season with San Francisco with a clean bill of health.
By all accounts, McKinnon has been fantastic during training camp. However, as stated earlier, it’s impossible to know how he will look on the NFL field after two years off. That is the first reason why McKinnon is a player to watch this Sunday.
Simply to see if how his play looks after two years off.
The second reason why McKinnon is a player to watch is to see how Shanahan uses him into the 49ers’ run game. The Niners had one of the best rushing attacks in football last season, and it was also one of the most unique. Shanahan called on different running backs at different times and used them all incredibly creatively.
It seems fairly certain Raheem Mostert will be the 49ers’ lead tailback this season. Mostert dominated last season and had his contract restructured over the offseason, so expect him to lead the backfield. But, last season it was nearly impossible to predict what would happen with the backfield, and now McKinnon gives Shanahan another talented player to use creatively.
McKinnon’s ability as a pass-catcher implies he may be used as a predominantly pass-catching back, but all of the running backs on the 49ers have proven themselves to be capable pass-catchers anyway. Yet we won’t know for sure how McKinnon fits into the 49ers offense until we watch him play this Sunday.
That is why McKinnon is so interesting, and why he is a must-watch player this Sunday against the Cardinals. Watch in order to see his ability and find out how Shanahan plans to use him.