Jerick McKinnon’s torn ACL leaves 49ers with gaping hole

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon will miss the entire 2018 NFL season with a torn ACL after signing a $30 million deal with the team.

McKinnon, entering his first season in scarlet and gold, will not be able to don his new 49ers jersey for even one moment of the 2018 season. The running back, who signed a $30 million deal to join Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers this offseason, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during practice Saturday and is expected to miss the entire regular season.

“He made a cut on air,” Kyle Shanahan told the Sacramento Bee on Saturday during a conference call. ”No one was around him, he went down. (It) looked awkward.”

The 26-year-old veteran running back was added to help replace former Niners second-rounder Carlos Hyde, who signed with Cleveland in the offseason. McKinnon was expected to be a major part of San Francisco’s revamped young offense next to Garoppolo and receivers Marquise Goodwin and George Kittle.

Now, Shanahan and the 49ers’ staff will turn things over to the committee of Alfred Morris and Matt Breida. The duo is uniquely suited to help replace the injured back, as Morris was part of the rotation that handled the ball in Dallas during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension in 2017, while Breida was an undrafted free agent when San Francisco signed him just last year.

Breida rushed for 465 yards on 4.4 yards per attempt in 2017 filling in behind Hyde. He was also effective on passing downs, reeling in 21 receptions and a touchdown. Opposite him, Morris will look to keep momentum from a surprising 2017. The 29-year-old vet ran for 547 yards while Elliott missed time.

The 49ers’ depth chart also lists fourth-year running back Raheem Mostert next to Morris and Breida. The kick-return specialist may also be pushed into a larger role with McKinnon out.

Next: NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 1

Expectations are high for the Niners’ offense heading into Week 1, but McKinnon’s injury so close to the start of the season will dampen fans’ hopes.

San Francisco starts its season in Minnesota on Sept. 9.

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