49ers: 5 players who must perform better after 3 weeks of action

San Francisco 49ers running back Trey Sermon (28) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers running back Trey Sermon (28) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /
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Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers running back Trey Sermon (28) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Francisco 49ers need these five players to start producing more if the team is to take the 2021 NFC West crown.

To be successful, a team relies heavily on the running game and the pass rush. When the run game dominates, it opens up the passing game while wearing down opposing defenders. When the run game stalls, it puts the onus on the quarterback to make every play and forces the defense to play longer.

Unfortunately, the San Francisco 49ers running game has been pedestrian. To make matters worse, injuries to the running back corps have only exacerbated the issue, which has lead to the offense being primarily a passing offense.

On the defensive side, the team has had significant injuries to the defensive backfield which has resulted in opposing teams being able to consistently move the ball on third downs. In short, the team has issues on both sides of the ball that must be repaired.

But, not all is lost.

There are five players, that with improved play, can help patch the holes in the team’s game plans. Here are those five players who need to perform better starting with the next game versus NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks.

49ers Running Back Trey Sermon

The Niners had horrendous injury rates last year, and in 2021, they’re already getting hit hard by injuries.

As stated previously, the team’s running back depth has been depleted losing star running back Raheem Mostert. That would be bad enough, but the team also lost rushers Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) and JaMycal Hasty (ankle).

In Week 3, the team turned to rookie running back Trey Sermon with the hopes he could run the rock well.

Sermon was drafted by the 49ers in the third round with high expectations that he would play well in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Expectations were high because Sermon played in a similar scheme as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Reports out of training camp about Sermon’s performance were glowing. Many fantasy football gurus were promoting the idea that he should be taken ahead of Mostert. Yet, through the first two weeks, Sermon was pretty much left out of the team’s game plan, inactive in Week 1 and then getting one carry in Week 2.

It is not obvious why Sermon was left out of the 49ers’ plans in the early part of the season, but injuries have now forced him to step into the starter’s role. In Week 3, versus the Green Bay Packers, Sermon provided an underwhelming performance despite finding the end zone once. All told, Sermon had just 31 rush yards on 10 carries.

Sermon has the physical ability and experience playing in a similar system to be able to execute at a high level. With no better options remaining on the roster, Sermon has a golden opportunity to finally show what he is capable of.

If he does just that, the running game will perform dramatically better. This improvement will set up these remaining players to also increase their production.