The San Francisco 49ers, with a 5-1 record, recently experienced their first loss of the season, coinciding with star running back Christian McCaffrey suffering an oblique injury. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, however, shared that the MRI results on McCaffrey were more positive than expected. Still, McCaffrey’s availability for Week 7 remains uncertain.
Despite the injury setback, Shanahan is content with McCaffrey’s current workload. He emphasized that McCaffrey is regarded as the starting running back and that the number of touches he receives varies week to week based on game situations.
Shanahan stated, “I mean, we treat him as our starting running back. So, I don’t really think of how many touches we want to get somebody in a year; that’s week to week and how the game goes. But he gets a lot more extra because he gets thrown to so much in the passing game. I’m happy with how he’s being used. I’m happy with how he’s been playing, and we’ll see how the rest of the year goes.”
McCaffrey currently leads the NFL in rushing yards with 553, accumulating them on 110 carries
and scoring seven touchdowns. He has also been a valuable asset in the passing game, with 23 receptions on 27 targets for 177 yards and two additional touchdowns. In six games, he has been involved in 133 plays, averaging 22.2 touches per game, which is significantly more than his average in the previous two seasons.
However, despite the emphasis on McCaffrey’s role in the passing game, this season, he has seen a career-high 82.7% of his touches in running plays.
It’s important to note that earlier this year, after McCaffrey handled 100% of the running back touches in a game against the Rams, Shanahan expressed the need to incorporate Elijah Mitchell into the mix more frequently.
If McCaffrey is unable to play in the upcoming game against the Vikings, the 49ers are likely to rely on a backfield combination of Mitchell and Jordan Mason. Looking ahead, it may be prudent for the Niners to reduce McCaffrey’s rushing workload to enhance his contributions in the passing game, reduce his exposure to hits, and ensure his long-term health for the playoffs and beyond.