It wasn’t uncommon for the 49ers to lean heavily on running back Elijah Mitchell when he was a rookie in 2021.
But now, with Christian McCaffrey on the team, Mitchell is finding it difficult to get on the field himself.
Mitchell was one of four active, healthy and uniformed 49ers players who did not see action Sunday in the 49ers’ 30-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.
McCaffrey played all 57 offensive snaps for the 49ers, and coach Kyle Shanahan admitted Monday that the team made a mistake with their lack of rotation at running back.
“Yeah, we definitely have to get Elijah in more and do better with our rotation than we did yesterday,” Shanahan said. “It was not the plan to go in. It just ended up like that. I have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Through two weeks, McCaffrey leads the NFL in rushing attempts (42) and yards (268).
In the 49ers’ Week 1 win at the Pittsburgh Steelers, McCaffrey rushed for 152 yards while playing 58 snaps. Mitchell came on the field for just 10 games.
Shanahan said it’s generally the position coaches’ responsibility to make substitutions. Most of Shanahan’s concentration is on calling plays.
Bobby Turner is the 49ers’ running backs coach, while Anthony Lynn is the assistant head coach/running backs.
“You can ask for guys specifically on certain plays as a play caller,” Shanahan said. “You don’t keep guys fresh and rotating and things like that. Position coaches do. But also, for him (Mitchell) not to come in, I definitely should have noticed and asked about him.
Mitchell battled injuries during his rookie season, but took on a heavy workload when he was on the field. In his final five games of the regular season, he had two games with 27 rushing attempts and three more with at least 21 carries. He also carried 27 times in the 49ers’ playoff-opening win over the Dallas Cowboys.
RELATED: What ‘football nerd’ McCaffrey appreciates about Shanahan’s offense
Mitchell’s playing time took a dramatic downward shift in the trade that brought McCaffrey to the 49ers from the Carolina Panthers midway through last season.
McCaffrey may be the best running back in the NFL, but that shouldn’t mean Mitchell has no role in the 49ers’ offense.