Elijah Mitchell

49ers To Activate Elijah Mitchell, Azeez Al-Shaair, Colton McKivitz, Jordan Willis

NOVEMBER 11: The 49ers will be the first team to push up against the NFL’s new IR activation ceiling. They plan to activate Mitchell, Al-Shaair, McKivitz and defensive end Jordan Willis from IR, Kyle Shanahan said Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (on Twitter).

With San Francisco having already used three of its injury activations — including one on Jason Verrett, who has since suffered another Achilles tear — the team will have one remaining beyond Week 10. Friday’s decision stands to affect how San Francisco manages its IR list going forward, as starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is also on IR. Kinlaw is slated to return at some point this season, Shanahan said (via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, on Twitter).

While the IR ramifications of Friday’s move will be interesting to monitor down the road, the team will have a host of key contributors back following its bye week.

NOVEMBER 7: Injuries and a rather notable trade defined the first half of the 49ers’ season, but the contending team will have some reinforcements available soon.

The 49ers designated running back Elijah Mitchell, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and backup tackle Colton McKivitz for return from IR on Monday. Each member of this trio is in the final stages of rehab from an MCL sprain. Of the three, Al-Shaair may be closest to returning. The fourth-year linebacker categorized himself as a bit ahead of schedule and expects to play against the Chargers on Sunday night, via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner (on Twitter).

San Francisco has already used three of its injury activations this season, so some more complex navigation may begin to come into play here. Under the NFL’s new IR-return system, teams are allotted eight activations per season. It is safe to assume Mitchell and Al-Shaair will be back, with the former set to complement Christian McCaffrey and the latter the team’s No. 3 linebacker behind Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. It will be interesting to see if the 49ers activate McKivitz, who is the swingman behind Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, or gives him the full three-week timetable partially to gauge how its injury situation looks later in November.

Mitchell began the season as San Francisco’s starting back but did not make it through Week 1. The 49ers found a talented player in last year’s sixth round, moving Mitchell past third-rounder Trey Sermon on their depth chart from the jump. The Louisiana product totaled 963 rushing yards in just 11 games as a rookie but has battled extensive injury trouble as a pro. Shoulder, rib, finger and knee injuries led to Mitchell missing six games last season.

After trading Jeff Wilson to the Dolphins, however, the 49ers are thinner at running back. Mitchell returning would help the cause. Third-round rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, who was not placed on IR following his high ankle sprain, should be expected to factor into the newly McCaffrey-headlined backfield equation soon as well.

Al-Shaair is in a contract year and saw the 49ers lock down Greenlaw. With Warner signed long term, Al-Shaair could be auditioning for other team’s during this season’s second half. He started 13 games last season but has been out since Week 3 this year. McKivitz started one game in place of Williams this year but went down with his knee injury. The former fifth-round pick is signed through 2023.

49ers Place RB Elijah Mitchell On IR, Add RB Marlon Mack

Elijah Mitchell‘s run of injuries continued with an MCL sprain. This is viewed as a rather severe MCL issue, with Kyle Shanahan expecting his starter to be out for around two months. As such, Mitchell landed on the 49ers’ IR list Tuesday.

The 49ers brought in several backs for auditions Tuesday. Old friend Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman, ex-Jet La’Mical Perine and ex-Lion Godwin Igwebuike came in for workouts, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Marlon Mack visited with the team, and this appears to be the direction it will go. The 49ers are signing Mack to their practice squad, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

This will be Mack’s first move out of the AFC South; the former fourth-round pick has spent his career with the Colts and Texans. Houston, however, did not keep the former 1,000-yard rusher on its 53-man roster out of training camp. The Texans cut Mack, in moving their roster to 53, and then released him from their practice squad.

Mack, 26, saw a September 2020 Achilles tear throw his career off track. The Colts turned to 2020 second-rounder Jonathan Taylor, and although they re-signed Mack in 2021, the latter did not see much action last season. The Colts discussed possible trades ahead of last year’s deadline, and the 49ers were one of the teams to express interest. But Mack played out his second Colts contract, residing behind Taylor and Nyheim Hines on the depth chart.

Mack signed his second straight one-year, $2MM deal this offseason, joining the Texans, but will come to San Francisco for P-squad money. Mack, who rushed for 55 yards against the 49ers in this year’s Texans preseason finale, totaled 2,099 rushing yards from 2018-19.

Freeman and Coleman, of course, teamed up as part of potent Falcons backfields during the 2010s. They split up in 2019, with Coleman signing with the 49ers. Freeman also played for Shanahan in Atlanta, being the team’s starting back during both of Shanahan’s OC seasons. Coleman signed a two-year 49ers deal in 2019 and played with ex-49ers assistant Mike LaFleur in New York last season. Perine’s Jets stint also overlapped with LaFleur’s.

For now, Mack is the 49ers’ choice. The sixth-year veteran joins a team rostering Jeff Wilson, third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price and rookie Jordan Mason at running back. Wilson is expected to be the 49ers’ starter during Mitchell’s absence, and the 49ers played Mason — a UDFA out of Georgia Tech — over Davis-Price in their opener.

Elijah Mitchell Facing Extended Absence

SEPTEMBER 12: The injury could cost Mitchell a significant chunk of his second season. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Mitchell is expected to miss “some time” as a result of the injury, and ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter adds (via Twitter) that timetable will likely land in the two-month range.

MCL sprains typically do not produce this long of an absence, and Mitchell battled through multiple injuries to return to the field fairly quickly last season. But Kyle Shanahan has since confirmed an eight-week absence is slated, via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (on Twitter). Wilson, who entered the season as San Francisco’s clear-cut No. 2 back, is expected to replace Mitchell as the starter. Despite the lengthy timetable, Shanahan said Mitchell is not expected to need surgery.

SEPTEMBER 11: In the second quarter of their season opener, the 49ers’ running back woes from the past few years continued as starter Elijah Mitchell left the field with a knee injury, according to Field Yates of ESPN. This was certainly not the news that San Francisco needed today, in a game that needed it to be able to run the ball well, but, with Mitchell’s injury history, the news is even more concerning for the rest of the season.

Mitchell missed six games last year and had knee surgery in the offseason that forced him to miss all of the team’s spring practices. When asked about the status moving forward for Mitchell, head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters (David Bonilla of 49ers Web Zone), “I’m not sure. I know they said they thought he had a chance to come back and then they ruled him out about a quarter later, so I’m not sure yet.”

With rookie third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price designated as “out” going into the game, San Francisco had two healthy backs remaining, Jeff Wilson, who filled in as RB1 when Mitchell was sidelined last year, and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason.

When Mitchell exited the game, Wilson was the only running back to take any carries for the offense, but he was not the only rusher. Obviously, quarterback Trey Lance had his fair share of scrambles, as expected, but after Wilson’s nine carries for 22 yards, Deebo Samuel continued his hybrid role with eight carries for 52 yards while running in the team’s only touchdown of the day. Third-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk also recorded a carry.

The lack of early news on Mitchell’s outlook may be good news, but, considering his recent surgery and injury-history from last year, a knee injury was the last thing the 49ers wanted to see. Fortunately, San Francisco has plenty of experience from recent seasons in putting together a strong rushing attack despite injuries, and the 49ers’ offense is well-designed to let key offensive players like Lance and Samuel supplement their running game when needed.

Latest On 49ers’ Running Backs Room

The 49ers’ running backs room is loaded with talent but loaded, too, with questions marks and a history of injuries. In a breakdown of every San Francisco player from OTAs to minicamp, The Athletic’s Matt Barrows laid out the situation. 

The 49ers counted on a sixth-round rookie as their lead back last year. Elijah Mitchell took over early in the season as the Week 1 starter, Raheem Mostert, ended his year after only two carries. Mitchell went on the start ten games for San Francisco totaling 963 yards in eleven appearances to break the 49ers’ single-season rushing record for a rookie. The one notable drawback on Mitchell’s rookie campaign was that he was inactive for six games, a theme that will be repeated throughout this piece. Continuing on that note, Mitchell had knee surgery in the offseason that forced him to miss all of the team’s spring practices. He’s expected back for training camp and is likely to start the season as the 49ers’ lead back once again.

The top backup running back is a bit up to debate as Barrows believes Jeff Wilson is next in line, while ESPN’s Nick Wagoner asserts that rookie third-round draft pick Tyrion Davis-Price will jump the rest of the room on the depth chart.

Wilson served as the starter when Mitchell missed time last year and took over RB1-duties this spring with Mitchell sidelined. Surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee forced Wilson to miss the first eight games of the year last season, and it took him a little while to regain his footing. Now over a year removed from surgery, Wilson should be back to full strength and provide a strong secondary-option beside Mitchell.

Davis-Price declared for the 2022 NFL Draft early after a strong junior year at LSU where he rushed for 1,003 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was brought in to shore up a running back room that’s been oft-riddled with injuries, but Davis-Price suffered a minor injury in the first week of OTAs and sat out the remaining work outs. Hopefully, this is the extent of the effect San Francisco’s running back curse has on the 21-year-old.

Trey Sermon was drafted three rounds before Mitchell last year but saw his teammate overtake him on the depth chart as the speed of the game at the NFL-level proved a bit too much for Sermon during his rookie season. Sermon had two starts early in the year, when Mostert and Mitchell were injured and Wilson had yet to return from surgery. Coaches desired that he be more decisive when toting the ball and he found himself sidelined for the last six weeks of the season, once Wilson and Mitchell were back and (relatively) healthy. Sermon served as RB2 this spring with Mitchell out, but, if Wagoner is correct and Davis-Price is slotted in as the second-string running back, Sermon could find himself fourth on the depth chart to start the season, and it’s hard to imagine San Francisco carries more than four running backs into the regular season.

If that last statement is true, and hypothesizing that the 49ers will decide to carry four running backs into September, Sermon will have his work cut out for him as he competes with JaMycal Hasty. The former undrafted free agent isn’t quite the rusher that Sermon is, but Hasty has been the team’s best pass-catching option out of the backfield all spring. If the coaches trust Wilson to return to 100%, they may be able to rely on him on those passing downs, but Hasty’s quickness could grant him favor in those situations. Plus, Hasty’s ability and history returning kickoffs adds a special teams value that Sermon doesn’t provide.

There it is, all laid out. Based on talent, the depth chart likely reads: Mitchell, Wilson, Davis-Price, Sermon, Hasty. Maybe, due to the injury luck they’ve had in seasons past, San Francisco decides they want to utilize 5 of their 53 roster spots on running backs (not including full back Kyle Juszczyk). If not, a top-three of Mitchell, Wilson, and Davis-Price seems likely with a possible fourth-spot being granted to either Sermon or Hasty, depending on need and value.

49ers Rumors: Al-Shaair, Garoppolo, DBs

This will be a key year for Azeez Al-Shaair. The fourth-year linebacker is less than a year away from a possible free agency bid, and he may have an opportunity to join Fred Warner as a three-down ‘backer. With Dre Greenlaw missing much of last season due to injury, Al-Shaair stepped in as a full-timer. This season figures to determine which contract-year linebacker — Greenlaw or Al-Shaair — the 49ers aim to keep. The one that ends up playing less figures to be the cheaper option, with Matt Barrows of The Athletic noting that might be the player San Francisco attempts to retain (subscription required). Such a strategy would mesh better with Warner, who is tied to a top-market off-ball linebacker deal. A 2019 UDFA out of Florida Atlantic, Al-Shaair registered 102 tackles (nine for loss), two sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception in 13 games last season — his first as a full-timer. Al-Shaair, however, is recovering from offseason knee and shoulder surgeries, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. The team is targeting a training camp return for Al-Shaair.

Here is the latest out of San Francisco:

  • New 49ers quarterbacks coach Brian Griese has dealt exclusively with the quarterbacks who have attended the team’s offseason program. He has not communicated with Jimmy Garoppolo since taking over, via Maiocco (on Twitter). While Garoppolo will surely still have a good grip on Kyle Shanahan‘s offense, this does mark another sign the franchise remains intent on finding a trade. Dealing Garoppolo is not a guarantee, but it has long been the team’s goal.
  • Elijah Mitchell made a surprise ascent early last season, leapfrogging third-round pick Trey Sermon and finishing with 963 rushing yards in just 11 games. The 49ers added another third-round back this year, in LSU’s Tyrion Davis-Price, and have a new running backs coach in Anthony Lynn. The team still views Mitchell as its top backfield option, according to ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner, who adds the incumbent plans to be roughly 15 pounds heavier than he was last season. The 2021 sixth-round pick, who missed a chunk of the season due to multiple injuries, played at around 200 pounds as a rookie.
  • K’Waun Williams operated as the 49ers’ slot cornerback for five years, signing multiple contracts to stay in that role. But the veteran defected to the Broncos in free agency this year. Veteran Darqueze Dennard could benefit. Despite being a January practice squad addition, Dennard resides as the top slot option for San Francisco as of OTAs, Barrows adds (subscription required). Fifth-round pick Samuel Womack may be Dennard’s top challenger, per Barrows. Although Dennard played in just two regular-season games last year (one as a Giant, one as a 49er), he spent several years as the Bengals’ primary slot defender. This will be the former first-rounder’s age-31 season.
  • Jaquiski Tartt is not expected back with the 49ers this year. As of OTAs, Talanoa Hufanga and Tarvarius Moore reside as the top options to replace him, Barrows notes. Hufanga received the first crack at the strong safety job this week, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Moore’s contract tolled from 2021, a season he missed due to a torn Achilles suffered during the 49ers’ 2021 offseason program. The 49ers drafted Hufanga in last year’s fifth round; he started three games as a rookie. The team also signed ex-Colt safety George Odum this offseason.

49ers Notes: Lance, Tart, Mitchell, McGlinchey

In a wild offseason which has seen a number of sizable quarterback trades, one of the most significant storylines has to do with a move which hasn’t taken place. With almost (if not every) 2022 starting QB spot already spoken for, Jimmy Garoppolo remains on San Francisco, something which may not change for the foreseeable future. General manager John Lynch pushed back against reports that, even if he is retained, Garoppolo will cede the starting job to 2020 first-rounder Trey Lance.

All these reports, I don’t know where they all come from” Lynch said, via Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports. “We always believe in competition, but at the same time we are great believers in what [Lance] brings to the table. We believe he is ready. He is going to have to show that. I think he’s ready to show that to us, show that to his teammates, and show that to the world.”

Garoppolo has been thought to be on the trading block since the 49ers traded up to select Lance third overall last year. It came as no surprise that the veteran openly discussed a future destination other than San Francisco after the season ended, but shoulder surgery has complicated his trade market, which was already weighed down by his $26.9MM cap number for 2022. Even if Garoppolo does stay with the team into the fall, Lynch’s remarks still point to Lance at least having the inside track for the No. 1 role.

Here are some other notes out of the Bay Area:

  • The team’s secondary has undergone plenty of change this offseason, and it appears at least one safety spot will look different come next year. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Jaquiski Tartt “isn’t expected to return”. The 30-year-old has spent all seven of his NFL seasons with the 49ers, but the team has done homework on a number of secondary prospects, including Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker, Branch notes.
  • Running back Elijah Mitchell said yesterday that he underwent a minor procedure on his knee this offseason (Twitter link via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury). A sixth-round pick last year, Mitchell enjoyed a productive rookie campaign, totalling 1,100 yards and six touchdowns. He added that he will “definitely” be ready for training camp.
  • The same will likely be true of right tackle Mike McGlinchey. The 27-year-old suffered a season-ending quadriceps tear in November. As Branch notes (on Twitter), however, the former top-10 pick expects to have recovered in time for the summer.

Dolphins Hire Mike McDaniel As Head Coach

The Dolphins have announced that they’ve agreed to terms to make 49ers’ offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel their next head coach (Twitter).

McDaniel recently had his second interview with Miami on Friday. Fox Sports Writer Peter Schrager reported that the interview lasted for 10 hours.
McDaniel was one of two candidates to receive a second interview with the Dolphins as Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore interviewed yesterday. With Moore not getting the job, it looks like Dallas will keep both coordinators as Moore has not been mentioned as a contender for the Saints’ or Texans’ jobs and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has informed teams that he is remaining in Dallas.

McDaniel is a longtime Kyle Shanahan-staffer, following Shanahan from Atlanta to San Francisco. Following Mike LaFleur‘s departure to join Robert Saleh on the Jets, McDaniel was promoted to offensive coordinator.

The 2021 NFL season was McDaniel’s first and only year as an offensive coordinator at any level. He first entered the NFL as an intern for the Broncos in 2004. He spent three years as an offensive assistant in Houston before taking the position of running backs coach for Sacramento’s short-lived UFL team. McDaniel re-entered the NFL ranks an an offensive assistant in Washington for two years before getting promoted to wide receivers coach. He spent one season in that position in Washington followed by a season holding the same position in Cleveland before heading to Atlanta to become an offensive assistant under Shanahan.

The 38-year-old’s rise has been meteoric since joining Shanahan. After two years in Atlanta, McDaniel became Shanahan’s run game coordinator in San Francisco for four seasons before finally getting his shot last year at offensive coordinator. McDaniel didn’t call plays for the 49ers, but he did draw up the running plays and coordinate a running game that ranked in the top-10 despite losing Raheem Mostert in Week 1 and missing Elijah Mitchell for 6 games this year.

With Brian Flores‘ lawsuit against the NFL, Dolphins, Giants, and Broncos alleging racial discrimination, much attention will likely be paid to the fact that McDaniel identifies as multiracial, making him the first minority coaching candidate to be hired in this year’s cycle. The 49ers will receive two third-round compensatory picks as a result of the hire.

With Miami securing their man, there are now only two teams remaining who are without a head coach: the Texans and Saints. Keep up with the last remaining coaching searches on our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

49ers Add RB Brian Hill To Practice Squad

San Francisco is adding another piece to its running back room. Four-year veteran Brian Hill will join the team’s practice squad, per NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (via Twitter). 

A Falcons fifth-round pick in 2017, Hill has spent most of his career in Atlanta. He totaled 982 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 202 carries (an average of 4.7 per carry), adding 38 receptions for 313 yards and one score during his time with the Falcons. Atlanta’s new regime did not re-sign him this offseason.

In between his Atlanta exit and this signing, Hill spent time with the Titans and Browns. The former Wyoming back has yet to see any action this season, however. The Browns released Hill from their practice squad last week.

Injuries in the 49ers’ backfield point to Hill as an option. Elijah Mitchell and Trenton Cannon are dealing with concussions, while Jeff Wilson‘s knee injury also has him in question. Mitchell also went through an MRI on his knee Wednesday, per Maiocco, who adds the scan came back clean (Twitter link). Trey Sermon is on IR and ineligible to return this week. The 49ers’ only sure thing at the position is currently JaMycal Hasty. Although Hasty has seen intermittent work with the 49ers over the past two seasons, he played one offensive snap in San Francisco’s Week 13 game.

Injury Notes: Steelers, JPP, Jets, Mailata

After suffering a pectoral injury in Week 2, Ben Roethlisberger is not in jeopardy of missing Week 3. The Steelers will have their 18th-year quarterback against the Bengals. Big Ben returned to full practice Friday. He will not have his top receiver available, however. Although Diontae Johnson‘s late-game injury was not believed to be serious, Mike Tomlin pushed back on the prospect the third-year wideout would quickly surmount his knee problem. The Steelers have declared their leading receiver out for Sunday. The third-year pass catcher has run into myriad injury issues as a pro, missing games or parts of games with several maladies last year. The Steelers have contract-year wideout James Washington set to step in as a full-timer.

Here is the latest from the injury front going into the season’s third Sunday:

  • In addition to being unlikely to have Antonio Brown available, the Buccaneers will be down Jason Pierre-Paul against the Rams. The 11th-year pass rusher will miss Week 3 with hand and shoulder injuries; he did not practice this week. Tampa Bay will be set to use first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka more extensively in L.A.
  • Andre Dillard looks likely to return to the Eagles‘ starting lineup for the first time since November 2019. Recently extended left tackle Jordan Mailata is likely to miss Monday night’s game against the Cowboys, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. A knee injury is expected to keep the ex-rugby player out of Philly’s lineup, though Garafolo notes the team does not view the setback as serious. Mailata suffered the injury in practice this week, E.J. Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer adds. Dillard missed extensive camp time due to a knee injury and has not played an offensive snap since 2019.
  • The Jets will have Zach Wilson in uniform against the Broncos, but the rookie quarterback is playing through a groin injury. The No. 2 overall pick sustained the injury during the Jets’ Week 1 loss to the Panthers, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Wilson practiced fully this week, but Howe adds the BYU product went through an MRI recently. Although Wilson might not be in danger of missing time, this is certainly an issue to monitor.
  • The Packers are likely to be severely shorthanded on their O-line in San Francisco. Elgton Jenkins, who has filled in for PUP list-stationed David Bakhtiari at left tackle, is doubtful to face the 49ers because of an ankle issue. Green Bay will likely be forced to use its third left tackle option against the 49ers, who feature Nick Bosa as their primary blindside rusher. The Packers signed Dennis Kelly this offseason, giving them a potential option at right tackle in the event they slide right-side starter Billy Turner to left tackle.
  • Between their practice squad and active roster, the 49ers have seven running backs. That total balloons to nine if Raheem Mostert (IR) and Jeff Wilson (PUP) are included, and San Francisco’s backfield will be missing more pieces Sunday. Due to injuries sustained in Week 2, Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty are respectively doubtful and out for Sunday night’s game. On the bright side, third-round rookie Trey Sermon has cleared concussion protocol. Despite beginning the season as a healthy scratch, Sermon should be expected to start, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets. The 49ers have Trenton Cannon and recent addition Jacques Patrick, an XFL alum the 49ers added off the Bengals’ practice squad, on their active roster and Kerryon Johnson and Josh Hokit on their practice squad.

Saints Reach 53-Man Roster Limit

Every team had to get under the 53-man limit by Saturday’s deadline, but the Saints were the last to publicly announce their cuts. Here’s the full rundown of their moves:

Waived:

Released:

IR:

The Saints re-signed Cadet this offseason only to put him on the trade block in June. They didn’t find any takers then and they apparently couldn’t find any now. The Jets, who pursued him in free agency, could have interest in signing him.