The San Francisco 49ers will be without running back Jerick McKinnon for the rest of the preseason. The news is not a big surprise, but general manager John Lynch confirmed it anyway during his Friday morning KNBR interview. The team expects him back for Week 1 vs. his old team, the Minnesota Vikings, but they are not going to rush him back for the preseason.
McKinnon suffered a calf strain in practice earlier this week, which followed Matt Breida suffering a separated shoulder last Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys. Breida is also expected to miss the rest of the preseason and be ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
Following McKinnon’s injury, the team quickly signed Alfred Morris. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan revealed on Thursday in his own KNBR interview that the team actually had talked with Morris the day before McKinnon injured his calf. That might have been in part because of Breida’s injury, but Shanahan also said the team wanted someone who is a little different in the mix. Shanahan sees Morris as more of a workhorse back who can be more of a traditional back. They’ve got a lot of speed and ability in the passing game in their backs, but Morris offers a complement to that.
The 49ers have three preseason games remaining, and the running back competition has taken a huge turn. McKinnon and Breida are settled in as the starters, but the third and potentially fourth running back spots are wide open. Raheem Mostert brings special teams skills, while Joe Williams has been a favorite of Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner. The team liked Jeremy McNichols enough to stash him on their practice squad last year. He had three rushes for 15 yards and a touchdown last week in fourth quarter duty, and he got some first team work this week in the joint practices.
The next two weeks (three games) will be big for Mostert, Williams, McNichols, and Morris. Rookie Jeff Wilson might get some work himself, but if we don’t see him play this week, it could mean the team is looking to stash him on the practice squad.