The San Francisco 49ers found themselves needing a running back in what was once an overcrowded backfield where at one point, the team kept as many as six backs on the final roster.
Who the 49ers Signed
Marlon Mack is heading to the Bay Area as a practice squad member, first reported by ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter on Tuesday, September 13.
Mack was part of a line of running backs who auditioned for the role of 49ers add-on. Per Schefter’s fellow ESPN colleague Field Yates, Mack was among seven running backs who made a trip to the 49ers’ facility.
For the 49ers, they not only add a 26-year-old to a backfield in need of an extra option, but lure in someone who not long ago crossed the four-digit rushing yardage mark.
Mack is Former 1,000-Yarder
Mack spent five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and worked his way to feature back.
His best season was in 2019 — when he hit 1,091 yards on 247 carries (both career-highs) and scored nine touchdowns. Here were shades of his 2019 work:
He was also lauded for his quick feet in hitting the open lanes.
Mack, however, hasn’t recaptured that form since then due to a torn Achilles after that breakout ’19 campaign. According to Pro Football Reference, he’s combined for just 32 carries for 127 yards and never scored a touchdown in the last two seasons.
Mack was recently with the Houston Texans. Ironically, his last preseason game was against his newest football team.
Ex-Shanahan Backs Among Reported Visitors
The Mack addition to the practice squad additionally means this: He managed to earn a spot on the 49ers roster over two former Kyle Shanahan running backs.
As mentioned by Yates, former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman was among the tryouts and visitors for the 49ers. So was Tevin Coleman, who had two stints with Shanahan.
Like Mack, the 30-year-old Freeman has a history as a 1,000-yard back. Except on Freeman’s end, he’s produced back-to-back seasons of crossing the century mark while with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and 2016, which were also his Pro Bowl seasons. And his offensive coordinator during those two seasons? Shanahan himself.
Freeman delivered 1,056 yards and 1,079 in those campaigns. And in both years, he scored 11 touchdowns. However, once Shanahan left Atlanta to take the head coaching job with the 49ers, Freeman had a production drop off.
Freeman never reached past the century mark in the post Shanahan realm. He also hadn’t started in all 16 games since that 2016 season. Last season he produced 576 yards and scored five touchdowns with the Baltimore Ravens.
Meanwhile, Coleman not only has a Falcons connection with Freeman and Shanahan, but was one of the running backs who followed Shanahan when he first took over the 49ers.
While in Atlanta, Coleman racked up 2,340 rushing yards and scored 18 touchdowns per Pro Football Reference. But his best season was 2018 post Shanahan, when Coleman ran for 800 yards on 167 carries. He went on to spend his next two seasons reuniting with Shanahan in the Bay. Coleman showed some promise in 2019 as the Niners marched to the NFC title — racking up 544 yards and scoring six touchdowns in Shanahan’s run-heavy offense. Coleman, however, dealt with a knee patella sprain and ended up finishing with just 53 rushing yards.
He was last with the New York Jets and former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, where he produced 356 rushing yards.