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Marlon Mack signing does little to move the needle for the San Francisco 49ers

Vincent Frank

Veteran running back Marlon Mack has played in all of seven games over the course of the past two seasons. A former 1,000-yard rusher for the Indianapolis Colts in 2019, Mack suffered a torn Achilles early in the 2020 season and just has not been the same player since.

With Elijah Mitchell now sidelined for the next two months due to a sprained MCL, the San Francisco 49ers went into desperation mode by signing Mack to their practice squad on Tuesday.

Let’s be clear here. San Francisco’s brass doesn’t believe Mack is going to come in and save the day following Mitchell’s injury. He was simply signed to the practice squad. With that said, a signing of this ilk is not going to change the dynamics too much in Northern California following a disastrous 19-10 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 1.

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Relying on Marlon Mack would be fool’s gold for the San Francisco 49ers

san francisco 49ers sign marlon mack
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While advances in the medical field have done wonders to help NFL players return from serious injuries, a torn Achilles and the running back position are two components that run contrary to that narrative.

Most recently, the torn Achilles’ Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers suffered back in July of 2020 has halted his career in its tracks. Akers has attempted eight regular-season runs since and was largely invisible in Los Angeles’ Week 1 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Back in 2013, NFL.com had this to say in a statement. “Our research concludes that no running back has ever recaptured sustained pre-injury form after rupturing an Achilles tendon.” The likes of D’onta Foreman and Andre Brown are two other semi-recent examples of this. In short, expecting Marlon Mack to return to pre-injury form is foolhardy. It’s the sad reality of the situation.

Related: San Francisco 49ers standing in Sportsnaut’s Week 2 NFL power rankings

Marlon Mack won’t save the San Francisco 49ers from themselves

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

The perfect storm of ineptitude, horrible playing conditions and a young quarterback opening his era in San Francisco all played a role in the 49ers’ brutal season-opening loss.

San Francisco’s offensive line struggled protecting Trey Lance. The young quarterback couldn’t get anything going once Chicago opened up a two-score second-half lead after falling down 10-0. The absense of Elijah Mitchell, who exited in the first half, also played a huge role in the 49ers’ ugly season opener.

Regardless of how good unheralded running backs have been in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, there’s also been some major injury issues. Mitchell missed six games as a rookie. New RB1 Jeff Wilson Jr. was sidelined nine games to injury last year, too. Having an experienced quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo (no, I am not advocating for a QB change) navigate through this is one thing. Expecting a greenish signal caller in Lance do the same thing is a completely different monster.

The obvious backdrop here is San Francisco’s decision to roll with three inexperienced interior offensive linemen as starters. Guards Aaron Brooks and Spencer Burford had not started a single regular season game before last Sunday. Veteran center Jake Brendel had all of three career starts under his belt in six seasons ahead of Week 1. That’s not a recipe for success in front of a quarterback who has now thrown 417 regular-season passes since his high school days.

As for Marlon Mack and San Francisco’s current running back situation, it must be noted that the team kept rookie third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price inactive for Week 1 in favor of undrafted rookie Jordan Mason. One of these will have to step up to change the dynamics here. That’s rather clear.

From a broader perspective, San Francisco is in a position in which it might have to make a move that changes the foundation after an ugly Week 1 loss. Whether that’s adding a starter-caliber offensive lineman in free agency or going with someone outside of Mack to shoulder the load on the ground, one instant overreaction from the opener is that San Francisco has some major issues it must resolve to help Lance progress under center moving forward. Signing Marlon Mack doesn’t change this.