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49ers mailbag: Who gets the most carries against the Giants?

Answering your questions ahead of the Niners Week 3 matchup against the Giants

San Francisco 49ers v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers take the field for their third game of the season on Sunday. We answered your questions ahead of the Giants game, starting with one on many fans’ minds.

Think we’re gonna have another Alex/Kap situation if Mullens tears it up this week? -Mark

Kyle Shanahan has been adamant about how “Jimmy is our guy,” and there’s no reason to think he’s lying. I think Garoppolo is considerably better than Mullens in every aspect. Kaepernick had upside and brought something to the table that Smith didn’t. The same cannot be said for Mullens.

As a 49ers nation, do we have the chance to be NFC champs again? -Cindy

Absolutely, and I’m not just saying yes to say yes. The 49ers have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, even with multiple injuries. The biggest difference between this year’s team and last year is that we won’t see blowouts in the playoffs. We won’t see the 49ers run through opponents in a similar way as they did in 2019. The offense will need to improve and hit their stride. It’s reasonable to believe that will happen once everyone is healthy. On defense, they’ll need to get timely stops and turnovers. If the defense is average for the remainder of the season and the offense starts to hit on all cylinders, San Francisco will be among the conference’s best teams.

Can we get back to running all over teams please? -Charimun

That plan never went away. You can blame the blocking upfront. The 49ers have struggled to create rushing lanes for the running backs. Don’t let a few big gains fool you. San Francisco is 31st in adjusted line yards, only creating 3.3 yards on average. That’s a limited sample size, but that’s a full yard worse than last season. As long as the 49ers don’t have a perimeter threat, defenses will continue to load the box and make life difficult for the Niners on the ground.

Shanahan has tried to switch up some of the rushing schemes as well, going from zone schemes to a few gap schemes last week, but to no avail. Simply put, the offensive line has to be better.

How will Hasty/Wilson/McKinnon be used this weekend? Is McKinnon the lead back, or will they continue to use him as mainly a 3rd down backboard -49ersMode

This question will be on everyone’s mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jerick McKinnon were the “starter,” but Jeff Wilson Jr. ended up with the most carries. McKinnon has shown he could be effective as a ball-carrier, and Shanahan said that Jet had earned more opportunities. Kyle has also mentioned how he’s still easing Jerick in. McKinnon had 168 carries in 2017. He never had a game over 16 carries and went over 15 just twice.

We need to watch how each running back performs in pass protection, especially with Mullens at quarterback. Tevin Coleman is the best pass protecting running back, but he’ll be out Sunday.

Did Bosa getting injured give you a “Jimmy G from 2018” feeling? -Jeffrey

Bosa’s injury was and will be the most depressing part of this season, but the 49ers didn’t lose all hope, so no, I didn’t get the same feeling. When your quarterback goes down with an injury, your season is over more often than not. This year’s version of the 49ers is much better equipped to win as they still have an incredible amount of talent on the roster.

The victories won’t come as easy as they did in 2019, but the sense you get from listening to the players and coaches talk is that San Francisco fully expects to be competitive and make the playoffs. The team will need to win their next few games to give them some breathing room as they head into a brutal stretch of the schedule in the latter part of October.

Do you think we’re better off without Tevin Coleman - Cortez

I’m a harsh critic on Coleman:

For two years now, he’s struggled behind a line where other runners have had success. It’s odd, but the lineman misses more blocks when Coleman has the ball. Some of that could be attributed to Coleman not following his blocks, but I don’t think the 49ers are better off without him. Not the way Coleman was used during Week 2, anyway.

For the first time, Coleman was being used as a wide receiver. That’s his best attribute. He’s the best pass protector in the backfield as well. Coleman is bound to have a 100-yard performance once he returns. If his usage resembles the Jets game, Coleman should make an impact in this offense.

With Dee Ford’s extensive injuries, do you think there is a growing sense in the organization he could be traded or released if he doesn’t get on the field? Or the potential for a pay cut similar to what McKinnon did via playing for league minimum? -Jake

The 49ers already converted Ford’s base salary into a signing bonus to free up some cap space earlier this month. If Ford doesn’t return to the field this season, I’d imagine San Francisco would hope Ford retires so they could recoup the money on his contract and get that salary cap space back. If nothing changes, the 49ers could release Ford with a post-June 1 designation and save $16 million in cap space and only eat about $4.7 million in dead money.