The San Francisco 49ers are once again battling against the injury bug. They have already seen multiple starters go down this season, some with injuries more significant than others. The most damaging has been losing starting quarterback, Trey Lance.
While some people believe that the 49ers are better off with Jimmy Garoppolo back under center than they were with Lance, there is still an adjustment period that will be needed. Lance took all of the first-team reps throughout the offseason and the offense was rebuilt around his skill set.
Garoppolo has experience playing in Kyle Shanahan’s system but it will take some time. The running back room will need some adjustments as well, but they have also been hit hard by injuries.
Starter Elijah Mitchell was injured in the second quarter of their Week 1 game against the Chicago Bears and was placed on IR. Rookie Tyrion Davis-Price is also battling an ankle injury and has appeared in only one game.
That has left Jeff Wilson Jr. as the starting running back once again, but the depth behind him is shaky. The only healthy running back on the roster is rookie Jordan Mason. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel has returned to a hybrid role as well, handling 17 carries already, second most on the team behind Wilson.
Given how important the running game is to the 49ers’ offense, they could look to bring in some help at the running back position. One name that could be of interest to them is D’Ernest Johnson of the Cleveland Browns.
Johnson is a distant third on Cleveland’s depth chart behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Hunt was looking for a change of scenery himself, but the team has shown no interest in trading him. Instead, if they aren’t going to use Johnson, they could look to get some value for him.
The South Florida product has been used exclusively on special teams thus far this season, as he has recorded one offensive snap this season. When given the chance to play, he has proven to be a more than capable back, averaging 5.3 yards per carry in his career.
In two starts last season, Johnson carried the ball 41 times for 245 yards and one touchdown. He also caught nine passes for 80 yards as the backfield didn’t miss a beat with him filling in for Chubb and Hunt.
Adding Johnson to the mix in San Francisco would provide quality assurance behind Wilson, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career as well. Lance was expected to be a big part of their rushing attack this season but with him now sidelined for the remainder of it, they should strongly consider bolstering their running back depth to offset it.