Elijah Mitchell, 49ers' rushing attack set for gargantuan year, per Peter King

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King expects gargantuan year for Mitchell, 49ers' run game originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Heading into Tuesday's roster cut-down deadline, all eyes are on the 49ers as they make a decision on Jimmy Garoppolo's future.

But once the season gets started, the backfield behind starting quarterback Trey Lance will turn some heads.

In his weekly "Football Morning in America" column, NBC Sports' Peter King writes that he expects big things out of the 49ers' talented group of running backs.

"The Niners will enter the season wanting to bring Trey Lance along slowly, and so Kyle Shanahan will gameplan to protect him," King wrote. "That could mean 55 percent runs, especially early. I’d forecast Elijah Mitchell to be the stalwart here with Trey Sermon an active number two.

"Both will get major chances, and if Mitchell gets hot early and stays healthy, he’ll be a 1,000-yard back in this offense."

Mitchell reaching the 1,000-yard milestone certainly isn't a stretch. As a rookie last season, Mitchell compiled 963 yards on the ground while missing five games. He posted five contests with over 100 rushing yards.

The 55-percent rushing prediction, though, is interesting.

With Garoppolo under center last season, the 49ers ran the ball 48.4 percent of the time, which ranked fourth in the NFL. No team ran the ball more than half the time in 2021, although three teams did the year prior -- the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans.

Over coach Kyle Shanahan's five years leading the San Francisco sideline, the highest clip of 49ers running plays was 51.4 percent in 2019 when the team made an appearance in Super Bowl LIV.

Raheem Mostert led the team in rushing that season with 772 yards, followed by Matt Breida (623) and Tevin Coleman (544).

In the Shanahan era, only one NFL team has surpassed the 55-percent mark in rushing plays -- the 2020 Ravens with a 55.04-percent clip.

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Sermon, listed by King to serve as the 49ers' backup behind Mitchell, has plenty of competition at the position.

Jeff Wilson Jr. returns from injury after leading the team in rushing two years ago. JaMycal Hasty also looms in the running backs' room, as does third-round pick Ty Davis-Price and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason.

The talent behind Lance is undisputed.

With Mitchell leading the charge, the 49ers featuring a dominant rushing attack would make life easier for Lance as he endures the challenges of his first full season as the starting quarterback.

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