The 49ers are facing some serious questions at the running back position ahead of their “Sunday Night Football” clash with the Packers.

It started when Raheem Mostert went out for the season with a knee injury. He was expected to be the team’s backfield leader with last year’s rushing lead Jeff Wilson Jr. on the PUP list. Now, the team is using a committee approach, but even the backs they are using in that capacity are in flux.

San Francisco has lost JaMycal Hasty, who is week-to-week because of a high ankle sprain. Their other two projected backfield leaders — Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon — were both on the Week 3 injury report, and Mitchell (shoulder) was listed as doubtful for the Sunday night game. That has led the team to sign three additional running backs this week after they added another ahead of Week 2.

The 49ers have a grand total of 10 running backs on their 53-man roster, practice squad and injury lists. That makes it difficult to predict exactly what the team is going to do at the position.

Here’s an in-depth look at the 49ers’ backfield as they navigate injuries and figure out how to field a running game in Week 3.

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49ers RB depth chart

Here’s what to know about the 49ers’ running back depth chart entering Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season. The team hasn’t yet updated its official depth chart to reflect the injuries to Mostert, Mitchell and Hasty, but these are the players they could potentially have available against the Packers.

1. Trey Sermon

Sermon’s rookie season hasn’t gone as planned so far. The third-round pick out of Ohio State was inactive for the opener and played just one offensive snap against the Eagles. He carried the ball eight yards but was concussed and fumbled on the play.

Despite his concussion, Sermon has a chance to play on Sunday night. Shanahan said that he was on “a good path” in his recovery. If that’s the case, he should be in line for a large role, as Mitchell is expected to be out. He also is set to play more special teams when he does return to the lineup.

Sermon — 6-0, 215 pounds — can serve as a bruising starter. Sermon isn’t the fastest back, but he has enough burst to rip off big plays. He could have a nice outing against the Packers if the team leans on him with Mitchell out. He has more experience in San Francisco’s system than any other back.

2. Trenton Cannon

Cannon’s name may be familiar to some. He was actually one of the players the Ravens signed to help deal with their shortage at running back. However, they waived him after Week 1 and he landed with the 49ers.

Cannon is a smaller back at 5-11, 185 pounds and is mostly a special teams player. Perhaps the 49ers could use him a bit like they used the injured Hasty, but he has just four yards on three carries this year. He’ll simply be a special teams ace and occasional receiving option out of the backfield.

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3. Jacques Patrick

The 49ers signed Patrick off the Bengals practice squad ahead of Week 3. Patrick has never played a down in the NFL, but he spent the 2020 season with the Bengals after an impressive stint in the XFL.

Patrick racked up 254 yards and two touchdowns on 60 rushing attempts in five games for the Tampa Bay Vipers before the XFL shut down. He’s 6-3, 234 pounds and is a battering ram at the position. He doesn’t have a lot of burst or quickness, but if he plays, he will be able to run through some defenders.

4. Kerryon Johnson

The Lions once spent a second-round pick on Kerryon Johnson. That didn’t quite work out. He ran for 641 yards on 5.4 yards per carry as a rookie in 2018, but regressed after that and had trouble staying healthy.

San Francisco signed Johnson to its practice squad to add depth to their backfield. He will provide them with some experienced depth. He has 344 touches and 1,752 scrimmage yards in 34 games played over three seasons.

Johnson was called up to the 49ers’ roster for the game against the Packers. Will he play? That’s the only question left to answer, but if the 49ers want experience, he could get the nod over Patrick.

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5. Chris Thompson

Shanahan coached Thompson during Thompson’s early days with the Washington Football Team. He was the offensive coordinator under his father, Mike Shanahan, when Washington drafted Thompson in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Thompson has been a great receiving back over the years. He has 3,132 scrimmage yards during his career and has averaged 8.3 yards per catch and 4.7 yards per rush during his career. His only career-long issue has been staying healthy. He has only played all 16 games once in his career; That came back in 2016.

Like Johnson, Thompson is on the San Francisco practice squad. He will be a potential game-day call-up if the 49ers want a backup receiving back to compliment Sermon and Patrick and want Cannon to play mostly on special teams.

6. Josh Hokit

Hokit spent the preseason with the 49ers and was signed to their practice squad right away. It’s possible that the Fresno State product could be active ahead of Johnson and Thompson, who just joined San Francisco ahead of Week 3, but the fact that they signed two veterans may indicate that the team wants more experience in the backfield.





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2 thoughts on “49ers RB depth chart: Trey Sermon, Kerryon Johnson, Jacques Patrick highlight potential leaders of banged-up backfield”
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