49ers GM Shares ‘Strongest Clue’ for Future of Struggling Player

John Lynch Kyle Shanahan

Getty John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers on January 29, 2020 before Super Bowl 54.

Overall, it was a forgettable night at NRG Stadium in Houston for the San Francisco 49ers.

What was deemed as a tune-up and “dress rehearsal” type game for most of the 49er starters became a slow-paced 17-0 defeat to the Houston Texans. An offensive line that went without both starting tackles were pushed, punished and beaten by a squad of Texan players either trying to make their final roster or erase the memories of a 4-13 season that resulted in their third straight coaching change.

Miraculously, though, one member of the 49ers found some wiggle room against the field version of traffic jams. And in the process, 49ers general manager John Lynch gave the “strongest clue” on what the future now holds for running back Trey Sermon.

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Lynch’s ‘Strongest Clue’

Before the third and final August contest, the third rounder from 2021 Sermon was the subject of facing a nebulous future in the Bay Area.

Insiders Nick Wagoner of ESPN and Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area started to mention Sermon’s name as a roster bubble candidate. The Amazon Prime Thursday Night Football duo of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit made mention of Sermon being on the brink of facing an outside chance of making the final 53-man roster. Even Heavy on 49ers placed Sermon’s name as one of five offensive players who needed the Texans game to ensure he wasn’t going to become trade or practice squad material.

Lynch, though, shared these words first to the Amazon TNF pregame crew before the game.

“He worked incredibly hard and had a tremendous offseason. Hasn’t showed up in the games, but throughout training camp has been one of our best players,” Lynch said.

David Lombardi of The Athletic tweeted out how Lynch’s statement about the second-year pro offers “the strongest clue that Sermon will indeed make the final 53.”

How Sermon May Have Saved his Roster Chances

Before the 49ers took him at pick No. 25 of the third round, the 6-foot, 213-pound back was described as a back with “good acceleration after change of direction” but made some decisions with his runs that led to him running into traffic by nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein.

And on the eve of the final game before the 2022 season, Sermon entered H-Town with just 19 yards on 11 carries for the month of August.

Through the congestion caused by Houston’s front four, Sermon compensated for it by showing the burst, change of direction and determination that got him on the 49ers’ draft board. This draw play got a 49ers offense backed near their goal line to have more breathing room near their own 20.

At one point during the 49ers’ longest drive in the second quarter, Sermon was averaging five yards per carry and providing a needed ground spark for the always run-heavy 49ers. That was before this 3-yard loss which saw the interior offensive line nearly get pushed back to where Sermon lines up before plays.

Sermon’s final numbers weren’t the ooh and ahh type: 8 carries, 20 yards and a final average of 2.5 yards per carry. But he delivered the longest run of the night at 12 yards and was the 49ers’ leading rusher.

As for the competition in the RB room: Jeff Wilson got the start but was limited to three carries and 16 yards (had best average with 5.3 yards per carry) while Jordan Mason, the undrafted rookie who had been viewed as the rising threat to Sermon’s roster chances, was bottled to just seven yards on four carries. Lastly, rookie Tyrion Davis-Price had a minus next to one stat line: -3 yards on four carries.

On August 31, 49er fans and Sermon will know if he’s going to be among the backfield options for the final 53. Sermon was given one more obstacle — the lack of open lanes from the 49ers’ road plow crew. But he still did what he could to find some wiggle room amid the line struggles…and in the process has his general manager giving away the “strongest clue” that there is room for him to stay on board.

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