Juice details why Mitchell thrived over Sermon last season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The 49ers’ running back room has Kyle Juszczyk eager for the season to start.
And while it’s no secret that San Francisco’s rushing attack has flourished under coach Kyle Shanahan, the fullback joined KNBR’s “Papa & Lund” on Tuesday to detail why fans should expect big things from the group’s trio of young backs -- and why Elijah Mitchell was able to thrive in his rookie season.
“I’m really excited about the running back room,” Juszczyk said.
Both of the 49ers’ second-year running backs, Mitchell and Trey Sermon, have incorporated new elements into their style of play this summer, while rookie Ty Davis-Price has amazed Juszczyk with his physicality and intellect.
Juszczyk expects much of the same from Mitchell this year if he stays healthy after his breakout 2021 campaign, which saw him emerge as the team’s lead back after Raheem Mostert underwent season-ending knee surgery.
But given the fact that Mitchell was drafted three rounds after Sermon by the 49ers in 2021, his success last season and the way the team leaned on him in Mostert’s absence came as a surprise to some. Juszczyk explained exactly how Mitchell was able to burst onto the scene and immediately thrive in Shanahan’s smashmouth offense.
“It’s a complicated offense, and sometimes the best way to come into a complicated offense and be successful is to simplify things,” Juszczyk said. “And I think that’s something that Elijah did in his first year. You talk about the wide zone and it being a one-cut offense. That’s how Elijah approached it, and that, I think, is his strength … He’s decisive and he just puts his foot in the ground and gets upfield.”
Mitchell’s rookie season saw him gain 963 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards a carry. His durability was on display alongside his capability, running the ball anywhere from 21 to 27 times in each of the last five regular-season games in which he appeared.
While those are numbers the 49ers Faithful might have expected from Sermon after he was drafted No. 88 overall by San Francisco in 2021, Juszczyk believes he’s well on his way.
“I think that’s something that Trey has started to add to his game, and he’s done better here in the last couple of days,” Juszczyk said of how Sermon has brought in some of that decisiveness seen in Mitchell last season.
After appearing in just nine games last season and starting only two, Sermon has impressed during recent practices.
“I think the last four or five days have been his best days as a Niner,” Juszczyk said. “And it’s been exciting to see that he’s been explosive, he’s been decisive and he’s made a lot of plays.”
With all of the depth in the running back room, it’s easy to see why Juszczyk is excited.
And if Sermon continues his upward trajectory alongside Mitchell, it’s safe to say Shanahan will have a bevy of weapons at his disposal.