49ers roster: 4 young players San Francisco should play more vs. Colts
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers haven’t done the best job developing their rookies and young players in 2021, but a Week 7 bout versus the Colts presents an opportunity.
Without question, the No. 1 focal point for the San Francisco 49ers this season is when and how head coach Kyle Shanahan should insert rookie quarterback Trey Lance into the starting lineup.
And not as just a spot starter. No, the guy from this point onward.
It doesn’t look as if Shanahan will make that commitment in Week 7 when the 2-4 Indianapolis Colts come to town for Sunday Night Football, especially with the head coach’s somewhat awkward preference for the veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Lance is dealing with a knee injury anyway.
There’s a strong chance Lance doesn’t see the field at all Sunday night, not even for one of his tailored snaps here and there before getting his first-ever NFL start in Week 5 in light of injuries.
Still, that doesn’t mean Shanahan should completely avoid using first- and second-year players a bit more in this contest.
Here are four youthful Niners Shanahan should play more, both to give a sub-.500 San Francisco squad a jolt and to help their budding development.
No. 4: 49ers Running Back Trey Sermon
The 49ers have been forced to rely heavily on their two rookie running backs this season, Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon, in light of veteran running back Raheem Mostert suffering a season-ending knee injury way back in Week 1.
When healthy, Mitchell has gotten the lion’s share of carries, though, utilizing his Mostert-like speed with great effect and averaging 4.2 yards per carry in the process despite being the Niners’ final pick from this year’s NFL Draft.
Much of it at the expense of Sermon, though, who only got one carry for 7 yards after Mitchell’s return from a shoulder injury in Week 5. This, despite Sermon impressing the previous week with an 89-yard effort and actually averaging two-10ths of a yard better than Mitchell this season.
Perhaps Mitchell has simply been better than Sermon up to this point, both in games and in practices. But with rain forecasted for Sunday night’s game at Levi’s Stadium, speed might not be as big a factor.
No, instead, Sermon’s bruising-style of runs might be a better option. Especially when factoring in how much more difficult it’ll be for the Colts to tackle.
Even if Mitchell gets a good share of carries, Sermon needs to be part of the game plan.