49ers: Wayne Gallman roster chances improve with Jeff Wilson out

New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman (22) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman (22) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

After the 49ers added two running backs in the NFL Draft, Wayne Gallman found himself on the roster bubble, yet that changed with Jeff Wilson’s injury.

At the time, the San Francisco 49ers signing former New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman to a one-year free-agent deal seemed like a great idea.

After all, the Niners had bid farewell to veteran runners Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman, and the 26-year-old Gallman had shown his value enough to the G-Men last year in the wake of a season-ending ACL tear to superstar tailback Saquon Barkley to make him a worthy addition.

Over the course of 2020, Gallman managed 682 rush yards on 147 attempts and six touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Yet Gallman found himself on San Francisco’s roster bubble right after the team drafted two rookies, Ohio State’s Trey Sermon in Round 3 and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elijah Mitchell in Round 6.

Despite the 49ers waiving depth running back Austin Walter shortly thereafter, they still were carrying six running backs on the offseason roster: Gallman, Sermon, Mitchell, Raheem Mostert, JaMycal Hasty and Jeff Wilson Jr. Even though head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is heavily skewed towards the run game, it didn’t seem feasible the Niners would keep six heading into the regular season, putting Gallman’s status with the team in Week 1 and beyond very much in doubt.

Well, that’s changed.

San Francisco is going to be without Wilson for four to six months, as reports surfaced he recently had surgery to repair a torn meniscus. And with Hasty also recovering from a torn ACL suffered late last year, suddenly there look to be only four rushers on the roster capable of being ready to go for Week 1.

Gallman included.

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Gallman is by no means safe entirely. After all, his one-year contract with the 49ers is for just $850,000 and includes zero in guaranteed money, per Over the Cap.

That said, Shanahan has a history of letting his running backs determine their own roles. Plus, Shanahan’s tendency to use a running back rotation instead of featuring a true bell-cow type of rusher opens up the door for Gallman to see considerable looks this season.

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A big X-factor here will be how someone like Sermon fits into the mix. A natural outside-zone runner, Sermon could find himself featured early in games to test out opposing defenses and find their weaknesses, not unlike how Shanahan deployed Coleman the last two years.

Mostert, meanwhile, used to serve as the Niners’ cleanup running back, using his speed (when healthy) to exploit those weaknesses in the second half.

Granted, much of this is predicated upon how Sermon’s own development goes through training camp and into the preseason. And it’s entirely possible Gallman winds up taking away a lot of the rookie’s touches. At least early on.

For now, though, Gallman finds himself pushed a little further off the roster bubble in the wake of Wilson’s injury, and the chances of San Francisco using the former a lot more this season just increased a good margin, too.

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