The San Francisco 49ers had big plans for free agent running back Jerick McKinnon last year, but an ACL tear cut short his season before it could even get underway. McKinnon is now in the process of rehabbing his ankle, and big plans remain in place.
On Wednesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about McKinnon’s rehab and if the plan was for him to be the lead guy in the backfield. Shanahan was up front saying, “Yea, that’s what we brought him here for.”
Matt Breida emerged as a solid presence after McKinnon went down. He dealt with ankle issues much of the season, but still rushed finished with 1.075 yards from scrimmage and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. He missed two games and was in and out of several more, but he showed he could be a playmaker in this offense.
Jeff Wilson did some solid work as well, and Raheem Mostert broke out in limited snaps before breaking his arm. However, for the time being it will be the McKinnon-Breida show. What that will entail remains to be seen. McKinnon has developed into a better pass catcher than rusher, but the 49ers think he can be their go-to guy.
McKinnon’s rehab continues, as he looks to be 100 percent by the start of training camp. The team can afford to take their time bringing him back thanks to their depth at the position, but Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are feeling good about his rehab.
Shanahan: “In this day and age, ACL, everyone recovers pretty good, it seems. It’s also tougher from a running back position, I would say, than from the quarterback. I would say he and Jimmy are – Jerick did it a month before him but I think they’ll be on the same page coming back. Jimmy it’s a little bit easier to throw in there in OTAs in 7-on-7 and it’s hard to throw a running back in there because if someone runs into him, it’s a little different. They have to make cuts that are a little bit different. But, Jerick’s been working his tail off. It’s the first time he’s hurt his knee and everything is on pace to be back. We’re really excited to get him back.”
Lynch: “Jerick’s recovering great. He really is. I think one of the cool things, we didn’t get a chance to see him on the field, but we’ve been able to see the work ethic that we’ve always heard about with Jerick McKinnon, front and center, in his rehab. He’s getting after it. Yeah, I think it’s been nice for him and I think he would tell you that, as would [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo], that it’s been nice to have a partner to kind of push each other. Jimmy was a month behind, so they’ve got their own competition going. That’s good because that’s an arduous process and I think they’ve been able to help motivate each other. I think our staff is doing an incredible job of working with both of those guys. We’re really encouraged with their prospects and where they’re going to be. Not putting a timetable on any of them, but I can tell you that his progress is coming very well.”