3 ways SF 49ers stay in contention amid brutal injuries

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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Jerick McKinnon, SF 49ers
Jerick McKinnon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers and John Franklin-Myers #91 of the New York Jets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

No. 3: SF 49ers must rely on the running game

I know what you may be thinking: If Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman are out with knee injuries, this may not work.

While it’s yet to be determined the amount of time both will miss (likely a few weeks), Mostert being out for any amount of time is a big blow to the offense. And although Coleman struggled in Sunday’s game, his experience and physicality will be an aspect missing from the offense.

In addition, the Giants are allowing 4.5 yards per carry so far this season.

Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme and unique formations should still provide plenty of opportunities for running backs Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson to find lanes to run in. And if needed, undrafted free-agent runner JaMycal Hasty may be brought up from the practice squad.

McKinnon, in particular, was effective Sunday in a limited role. He had three rushes for 77 yards and a touchdown. While McKinnon is also a receiving threat out of the backfield, look for him to carry the bulk of the load with Mostert and Coleman out.

Additionally, coach Shanahan has a number of ways to effectively use his receivers and tight ends in the run game. In fact, per Sharp football analysis and Sports Info Solutions charting, last season, the Niners had the third-most rushing attempts from wide receivers and tight ends (22), trailing only the Los Angeles Rams (31) and Carolina Panthers (31) in that category.

Utilizing end-arounds and similar-looking formations with multiple options from that set, Shanahan and the San Francisco offense had great success creating running plays from the receiver/tight end position. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was the big benefactor of many of these plays in 2019, and while he is out on injured reserve until Week 4, rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk may step into that role over the next few weeks and see some of those play designs.

Recently signed veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu is familiar with Shanahan’s offense from their Atlanta days, so he may see a carry or two as well.

Once Samuel returns, it will add one more option in the run game, and set up the offense to use the same personnel to run similar-looking plays that confuse defenses.

In effect, the offense can utilize the receivers as well as their backs to move the ball on the ground, which would then open up play action for either of the Niners quarterbacks.

Which leads us to the next point.