49ers taking ‘hot hand’ backfield approach by replacing Elijah Mitchell – NBC Sports

49ers taking 'hot hand' backfield approach by replacing Elijah Mitchell - NBC Sports

The 49ers will have a new starting running back in Week 2 and Kyle Shanahan has an idea how they will determine who it will be.

With Elijah Mitchell sidelined for about two months, Jeff Wilson Jr., along with rookies Ty Davis-Price and Jordan Mason will compete for the lead back role going forward. The club also signed a former Indianapolis Colts ball carrier Marlon Mack to their practice squad. The head coach made it clear that all the backs will compete for the job this week.

“For the most part, that was last week,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “We will feel them in these three days and we will go with the hot hand in the game.”

Wilson Jr. is the obvious choice to be tapped as the starter in Sunday’s matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran has quite a bit more experience in Shanahan’s system, but the head coach likes what he’s seen from his two rookies.

“Both of them, I think they’re very similar,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “They don’t screw up, they get down. Two types of styles that we need and what we like, but there is a lot more to playing football with us than just running the ball.”

Shanahan explained that a running back’s responsibilities in his system are layered. Not only must there be no hesitation to hit the holes the offensive line creates, but they must stay dialed from their roles on special teams to pass protection.

What a runner must do when the ball is not in his hands is just as important as what he does when it is. For Shanahan’s offense to be successful, all eleven players on the field must do their part. Add in the element of a wide receiver who doubles as a running back like Deebo Samuel and you have a greater potential for mistakes.

“Everybody’s working on it, but it’s not easy,” Shanahan said. “When you switch Deebo in and out of positions, and switch backs to receiver, and back to running back, there’s a lot that goes into it.

“Even people who know it very well mess it up, so it’s not something easy. But the pressure is on those guys to choose [it] up faster than they planned in the beginning.”

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There’s nothing like being thrown into the fire and that’s what Mason and Davis-Price could experience this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

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