Mason, who has played in every game, hasn’t carried the ball since his second-straight game with a touchdown on October 15. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan defended Mason’s reduction during a press conference on Friday, November 17. It started when Grant Cohn of Sports Illustrated’s “All 49ers” questioned Mason’s lack of carries amid 5.6 yards per rush and what it would take to touch the ball again.
“Why would that be an issue?,” Shanahan responded.
“Two guys in front of him would have to get hurt to get more there. There’s three of them,” Shanahan continued after the reporter asked the question again. “You’re implying that I don’t trust him or something, that’s what I heard in the question, so I’m trying to figure out exactly what your question is.”
Mason has 117 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries this season, which makes him third on the team in rushing. Running back No. 1 Christian McCaffrey leads the run game with 747 yards and nine touchdowns on 153 carries.
Elijah Mitchell, the team’s second running back behind McCaffrey, isn’t second on the team in rushing. He’s fifth with 73 yards on 30 attempts — a 2.4 yards per rush average. That fact prompted another question from the same reporter.
“We look at more than stats. Mitchell’s our number two back. He’s done some pretty good things here and JP’s [Jordan] our three, he’s been our two at times. But it’s how most cases are in the NFL,” Shanahan said.
Christian McCaffrey’s Workload a Concern
While Mason’s reduced rushing load has raised eyebrows, so has McCaffrey’s heavy workload.
“You look at the wear and tear that those guys take and the way that he runs between the tackles,” 97.5 The Game’s Brian Baldinger said during “The Morning Roast Show” on Wednesday, November 14. “I just think you better get, whether it’s Mitchell or Mason or somebody, touches, and get them some rhythm. I think you got to preserve him to a degree, especially if it’s a runaway game. You gotta find ways to get him off the field.”
McCaffrey could finish north of last season’s total, 284 carries. He much in the past before 2022 and paid the price.
“Well, if you just said 20 carries a game, I mean the 49ers want to play 20 games this year,” Baldinger said. “That’s 400 touches. He did that once in Carolina, and he was on the shelf for the next two years. On and off the shelf. It’s just too much.”
Buccaneers Not a Big Running Threat, but Screens Are
The Buccaneers only average 78.1 yards per game on the ground, but they can make things happen with screen plays. Buccaneers running back Rachaad White has 35 receptions for 326 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield this season. Shanahan expects to be prepared.
“Yeah, I mean everyone does screens and it’s about catching you at the right time, some things we do on defense, gives more opportunities to do that,” Shanahan said. “Guys have got us, but we’re always expecting it. We expect it every week and the success people have had we know it’s going to only come more and it’s going to keep coming more and more until we do better at it.”