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Who do you want to see at running back against the Vikings?

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One of the best parts of the preseason is getting to know the new players on your team. In the case of the 49ers, there aren’t a ton of new faces across the roster, except maybe at running back. Between Ty Davis-Price, Jordan Mason, and the seldom used Trey Sermon, we’ve got a lot to learn about the Niners’ ball carriers this season. With Elijah Mitchell still sidelined with a hamstring injury, who do you want to watch the most against the Vikings?

Personally, I would give the ball to the young guys and let them run wild. We’ve all seen enough of JaMycal Hasty and Jeff Wilson by this point. We know what they are, and more importantly, we know what they aren’t. Let’s unwrap the Christmas presents we’ve been staring at for so long.

On today’s Gold Standard podcast, Levin Black said he doesn’t think the game against the Vikings will clear anything up for us when it comes to the running backs.

“You can’t trust Kyle. It would not surprise me at all if [Jordan] Mason is the real number two, but he wants to hide that fact until the regular season. So he’s going to make it seem like he’s buried on the depth chart, so nobody knows, nobody prepares for what he can bring. Then all of a sudden, come the regular season, he’s getting 10 carries a game. You can’t trust Kyle. Sometimes when he has something that’s new, he likes to hide it - and I don’t disagree with that.”

Part and parcel to this, of course, is a good effort by the offensive line. Last week against the Packers, there weren’t a ton of big holes for the backs to run through. Hopefully, this week, there will be a little more space so guys like Sermon and Davis-Price can stretch their legs.

One area in particular to watch? Short yardage. In situations where the 49ers needed three or fewer yards on third or fourth down last year, running backs converted just 42.1% of the time - dead last in the NFL. Running backs averaged just 2.3 yards per carry on third and two or fewer in 2021, which was 26th in the NFL. Trey Lance obviously helps with that this year, but the running backs (and offensive line) simply have to be better in those situations.

There’s one more thing to keep in mind when it comes to the roster decisions at running back: Who are you likely to be able to claim later if you need someone? It’s risky to try and stash Jordan Mason on the practice squad if he continues to play well because he’ll likely get scooped up by another team with a need at running back. Hasty and Wilson won’t be nearly as enticing to another team, so you worry less about them becoming free agents.

To hear the entire conversation, check out the Gold Standard podcast, available everywhere podcasts are found.

Other topics in today’s show

  • Why hasn’t Levin started the Niners Nation listener fantasy, league? (2:32)
  • When does Danny Gray become legit and not just a training camp hero? (4:21)
  • Can Trey Lance be both a playmaker and a game manager? (5:35)
  • One thing Lance already handles better than Jimmy Garoppolo (8:20)
  • When will the running back picture clear up? (10:14)
  • Does Kyle Shanahan already know which RBs he’s keeping? (11:21)
  • Garoppolo’s ghosting: Did he do it to the Patriots, and did they know when they traded him? (13:38)
  • Why did the 49ers stick with Jimmy when Brady wanted to come over? (21:23)
  • How well do the Niners match up with the Bucs? (24:52)