The Niners have given the nod to running back Kerryon Johnson, a former starter with the Detroit Lions. Placed on the injured reserve list (IR) to make room for his elevation was running back JaMycal Hasty. He was joined on IR by defensive tackle Kevin Givens.
Cam Inman, with Bay Area News Group, took to Twitter Saturday, September 25 to break the news.
“#49ers going on injured reserve for at least next 3 games with high ankle injuries: RB JaMycal Hasty, DT Kevin Givens,” Inman wrote. “Activated from the team’s practice squad (standard elevation): RB Kerryon Johnson.”
Johnson’s Presence on Active Roster Result of Many Injuries to Backfield
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell is doubtful for Sunday’s matchup against the Packers. The fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft assumed the starting role in the Niners’ backfield following the departure of Raheem Mostert due to season-ending knee surgery.
With Hasty on IR for at least the next three weeks, the starting role at running back in San Francisco is up for grabs. Rookie Trey Sermon is poised to suit up Sunday, but his career consists of 1 carry for 8 yards, which ended in a fumble and then concussion protocol for most of the last week of practice.
Joining Sermon and Johnson on the active depth chart is Jacques Patrick, the Cincinnati Bengals’ preseason rushing leader who spent the first two weeks of the season on their practice squad before being scooped up by the Niners.
Johnson is Most Experienced RB on Niners’ Active Roster
Johnson is a much more experienced and accomplished running back than are any of the Niners’ currently healthy and rostered players at the position.
Detroit drafted the now 24-year-old Johnson in 2018, where he remained for three seasons. He appeared in 34 games, starting just shy of half of them (16). Johnson carried the ball a total of 283 times during his tenure with the Lions, totaling 1,223 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. He also caught 61 passes for a total of 527 yards, finding the end zone 3 times.
The strongest year of Johnson’s career was his rookie season in 2018. He showed his capacity as a dual threat, rushing for 641 yards and 3 touchdowns, as well as as catching 32 passes for a total of 213 yards and 1 touchdown.
While Johnson’s production has lessened over the previous two seasons, he has more knowledge of a regular season NFL field than any of the Niners’ RBs likely to be handed the ball against the Packers Sunday night.
The official Niners depth chart lists Mitchell as RB1, but also as doubtful. Following him on that list is Sermon, as RB2, Johnson in the third running back position, and Patrick pulling up the rear.
Sunday’s starter, however, matters less than who has garnered the most carries at the end of the contest in San Francisco’s home opener. Niners fans should not be surprised if that ends up being Johnson.