When people talk about the 49ers' offense, they love to run through the list of skill players. So far in 2023, San Francisco has only needed two of them.
After two weeks, Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel have accounted for 67% of the team's offensive touches. To their credit, the 49ers are also tied for 7th in total yards and tied for 3rd in total points. That success is a testament to both the skills of the players and the brain of Kyle Shanahan, who admitted he needs to lighten Christian McCaffrey's workload.
"We’ve definitely got to get Elijah [Mitchell] in there more and do better with our rotation than we did [Sunday]. That wasn't the plan going in. It just ended up that way and I’ve got to make sure that doesn't happen."
Shanahan hasn't showed any signs of throttling that down so far. In fact, we've seen the opposite. In Week 1 against the Steelers, Deebo and CMC combined for 60% of the touches. That likely would have been higher had Brandon Aiyuk not had the best game of his career (8 catches for 129 yards, 2 TD).
In Week 2 against the Rams, the duo combined for 34 of the team's 45 touches - a staggering 75% overall. As Vish Kumaran pointed out on the Under Review podcast on Monday, no one other than McCaffrey and Deebo touched the ball in the last 14:18 of that game.
Obviously that kind of usage can't continue all season long because both players have a history of getting banged up. McCaffrey has missed 23 games due to injuries over the last three years. Samuel has been able to play through some of his physical problems, but his effectiveness was severely limited while doing so in 2022 and 2020.
Luckily for Kyle Shanahan, he still hasn't really taken George Kittle out of the packaging yet. With a banged up Brandon Aiyuk and the Dynamic Duo needing a bit of a break, expect a lot of Kittle Over The Middle against the Giants on Thursday night.