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What Will Trey Sermon’s Role for the 49ers Look Like in 2022?

Trey Sermon is buried in the depth chart. How the 49ers will use him this season is a giant mystery.

It is no secret that Trey Sermon is out of favor.

The former Ohio State Buckeye initially received a lot of reps with the first-team offense in training camp last year, but couldn’t do enough to convince the 49ers to keep him there. Injuries played a part as well, but ultimately Sermon fell out of favor.

“Trey, I think, had to make an adjustment to how you run in the NFL," said John Lynch at the NFL scouting combine.

Sermon does dance too much for the style of offense that Kyle Shanahan likes. He wants his running backs to be patient and hit the right holes to get the full efficiency of the play design. Now Sermon has more competition after the Niners drafted Tyrion Davis-Price, who is expected to be the bruiser back. The 49ers now have a “thunder and lightning” duo with Elijah Mitchell and Davis-Price. It’s safe to say Davis-Price is going to be utilized more than Sermon. Playing time is a huge question mark for him right now.

It begs the question to ask: what will Sermon’s role be with the 49ers in 2022?

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He’s just going to be the emergency depth running back now.

I fully expect Mitchell and Davis-Price to get most or all of the carries. Maybe even sprinkle in Jeff Wilson Jr. as Shanahan sees fit. Sermon just looks like a guy now who will see playing time only if one of these players misses time due to injury. Given the history of running backs in Shanahan’s offense with the 49ers, the odds are likely that at least a couple of running backs will sustain an injury and miss time. That is where Sermon comes in, and I think the 49ers are more than okay with that. They’re okay with him being on the shelf until his talents are necessary.

The 49ers do not want to replicate what happened last season. Remember, there was a good three-to-five game stretch when the 49ers had every single running back injured. It forced them to poach players from other teams' practice squads and sign random free agents such as Bo Scarborough. If Mitchell misses time, then Wilson will see snaps and maybe Sermon. And if two running backs are down, then Sermon will assuredly see playing time. It’s just difficult to imagine any other scenario where Sermon actually stakes a claim to be in a three-man rotation with Mitchell and Davis-Price.

The only way that happens is if he lights it up in training camp and capitalizes on it in the preseason. But even that’s a stretch to happen. Shanahan would have to actually allocate a portion of first-team reps again to Sermon, which are going to go to Davis-Price. It’s a bleak situation for Sermon that I don’t see him getting out of.

Now, Sermon does have receiving capabilities out of the backfield. But he isn’t a player that Shanahan will want back there next to Trey Lance to protect him on third down, so that idea gets thrown out. It’ll likely be Wilson who gets that role if JaMycal Hasty is cut since he can catch and block. Sermon is now just a depth player for emergencies for an injured player and probably a special teams position. He won’t be cut as it’ll look foolish on the 49ers to give up so early, especially since they have given longer lifelines to players who didn’t deserve. Remember Jalen Hurd?

Barring something magical out of Sermon, his worth on the team is just as a reserve.