Kyle Shanahan Has High Hopes For Returning 49ers Starter

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

Getty Elijah Mitchell of the San Francisco 49ers stiff arming a Green Bay Packers defender.

As the San Francisco 49ers prepare to face off against the Los Angeles Chargers in their first game back post-Bye week, Kyle Shanahan is excited for the return of a former starter who hasn’t seen the field since Week 1 due to a high ankle sprain: Elijah Mitchell. Speaking with the media for the first time since San Francisco’s week off, Shanahan complimented Mitchell’s receiving abilities and detailed how he could fit in the offense moving forward, as transcribed by Niners Nation.

“Elijah has the capability to be just like that, Shanahan said. “I think it’s tough to do that when he has had the injuries that he’s had and there’s a skillset that takes time to develop through training camp, OTAs, practice, the quarterback, the looks, but even if you watch Elijah on his routes and check downs, he’s been very serviceable in the pass game and serviceable is good. The more Elijah plays and the more reps he gets, he could be very good at that.”

While Mitchell won’t be able to completely replace Jeff Wilson‘s power between the tackles, as the now-Miami Dolphins is a certified bruiser, his return should complement Christian McCaffrey well, and present interesting opportunities for Shanahan as a play-caller.

Kyle Shanahan Details How Hard It Was To Say Goodbye To Jeff Wilson

Speaking of Wilson, Shanahan also spoke about his former leading rusher and how hard it was to say goodbye after five seasons together.

“It was extremely hard,” Shanahan said. “That was one that I was not happy about, excited about, but something I truly understand that I think was the best for the team. We got a lot of running backs here who can do some stuff. Jeff has been exactly what I want for a Niner. And he’s helped us in every situation possible. We got that opportunity to bring in Christian, Elijah coming back, we have a lot of other guys in the depth chart that give us depth, not that that that made Jeff expendable by any means.

“I didn’t think it would happen at all because usually it doesn’t, but a team wanted him really bad and when they did it moved it up enough to where even though I was hoping it wouldn’t it, because I want him here this year. When you look at the future and how many games are left and what our rosters like, you have to make the best decision that isn’t always right now, it’s both. And for us to get a draft pick that we do need, give some of these other guys opportunities that they don’t need yet, because we are healthy, but I do think it’s the right thing for us in the long-term.”

With Miami in need of a replacement back after trading Chase Edmonds to Denver in the Bradley Chubb deal and the 49ers having a surplus of rushers at their disposal, this deal was truly a win-win for all parties involved.

The San Francisco 49ers Are Preparing For A Tough RB Challange In Week 10

As Brandon Staley prepares for a tough test against McCaffrey and Mitchell in Week 10, the 49ers will have a challenging rusher/receiver of their own to deal with in Austin Ekeler, whom DeMeco Ryans gave props to, as detailed by NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a guy that’s trustworthy,” Ryans said Thursday after practice. “He seems like a guy they can count on, whether it’s running the ball, catching the ball in the checkdowns and gaining positive yards. He gets a lot of catches because it seems like the quarterback can trust him. He does good things with the ball in his hands. All around, tough player.”

“Whether it’s blocking, running the ball, catching the checkdowns or screens, I really respect Austin and what he’s done in this league. He’s a really, really good player.”

After suffering a string of injuries of their own, Ekeler has become an even bigger fixture of the Chargers’ defense this season, averaging 101 yards from scrimmage per game through his first eight appearances of the season. Fortunately, the Niners’ defense ranks first against the run and eighth against the pass so far this season, according to Pro Football Reference, so they should have the infrastructure in place to combat Ekeler’s unique talents.

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