SANTA CLARA -- Just when you thought the 49ers had found their offensive identity, something like this happens.
Starting running back Elijah Mitchell has a fractured middle finger and the 49ers list him as doubtful to play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Which means Mitchell almost certainly won't play, unless a mircale happens. He missed all three practices this week.
Mitchell carried the 49ers to a win over the Rams this past Sunday by carrying the ball a whopping 27 times despite breaking his finger in the second quarter, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Mitchell's workload allowed the 49ers to play their run-first style of offense, control the time of possession and win.
If Mitchell can't play against the Jaguars, the 49ers will be down to just one running back that Shanahan trusts -- Jeff Wilson Jr. If he starts, expect him to carry the ball at least 17 times. But without a second running back Shanahan trusts, the 49ers probably won't be able to run the ball 30 times, which is their magic number. When they reach 30 carries, they typically win. So far this season, they've reached 30 carries just twice and won both times. Last week, they ran 44 times.
Shanahan needs to find another running back he trusts, or else the 49ers just might lose their identity and drop a game to the pathetic Jaguars.
Trey Sermon is a running back Shanahan should trust. The 49ers traded up in Round 3 for Sermon just this season. And in his one career start, he rushed for 19 times for 89 yards -- he played well.
The 49ers will need him this Sunday.