No. 1: 49ers Running Back Elijah Mitchell
It’s a bit of an unknown why Kyle Shanahan didn’t feature his running backs more the last time the 49ers and Cardinals squared off this season. True, Shanahan was forced to start rookie quarterback Trey Lance in the fray, and Lance’s own designed or improvised runs netted plenty of yards on the ground.
But only 12 of the Niners’ 28 rush attempts that game featured running backs carrying the ball, and only nine of those went to rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, who nevertheless averaged 5.6 yards in the contest.
Arizona enters this game with one of the league’s worst run defenses, allowing an average of 4.9 yards per carry, which ranks second highest entering Week 9.
If there ever was an opportunity for Mitchell and San Francisco’s ground game to get going, this should be it. Shanahan shouldn’t hesitate to feature his speedy and elusive rookie early and often throughout the game, picking up those chunk yards much as he did in Week 8 in the win over the Bears.
Mitchell has emerged as the 49ers’ top offensive weapon on the ground, and that speed should even be a factor against the outside chance the Cardinals are still able to play Kyler Murray.
Shanahan needs to call Mitchell’s number a lot this Sunday when the Niners and Cardinals kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.