49ers regret not using Elijah Mitchell to relieve Christian McCaffrey


We’re only two games in, but Christian McCaffrey is leading the NFL in rushing yards and on a record-setting pace this season. But how many touches are too many?

CMC carried the ball 20 times for 116 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, adding three catches for 19 yards. But coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on a conference call Monday that he regrets not getting Elijah Mitchell in the game at some point, as the backup running back was relegated to the sidelines.

“We definitely gotta get Elijah in there more and do better with our rotations than we did yesterday,” Shanahan said. “That wasn’t the plan going in. It just ended up that way. I gotta make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Through two games this season, McCaffrey’s 48 touches are tied with Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard for the most in the league. As Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, McCaffrey played in 100 percent of his team's offensive snaps for the 15th time in his career Sunday.

Shanahan said he has influence on the personnel in the huddles, but also said position coaches are usually the ones substituting in players.

“You can ask for guys specifically on certain plays as a play-caller,” Shanahan said. “But you’re not keeping guys fresh and rotating and doing stuff like that. Position coaches do that, but for (Mitchell) not to get in, I definitely should have noticed it and asked for him.”

The 49ers running backs are coached by assistant head coach Anthony Lynn and Bobby Turner, while offensive line coach Chris Foerster is also the squad’s run game coordinator. Mitchell is also injury prone, but remains an explosive tailback option for Shanahan when healthy.

Knock on wood, McCaffrey hasn’t missed a game since the 2021 season. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a 49ers uniform on Sunday, as he has rushed for 1,014 yards with eight touchdowns, along with 58 catches for 500 yards and four scores (and a passing touchdown) in 13 games with San Francisco.

The Niners would be wise to be proactive about his playing time, as Shanahan raised some eyebrows by keeping McCaffrey in the game late during the Week 1 30-7 blowout in Pittsburgh. CMC is clearly the key to unlocking the full potential of the offense and they don’t want to see him miss any action.

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