San Francisco Chronicle

Backfield beat up, but Mitchell may be OK

- By Eric Branch Eric Branch covers the 49ers for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: ebranch@sfchronicl­ Twitter: @Eric_Branch

PHILADELPH­IA — The 49ers’ backfield was so battered Sunday that running back Elijah Mitchell returned to the game despite dealing with a shoulder injury of unknown severity and just-arrived Trenton Cannon was unexpected­ly shoved into service.

The 49ers’ top three running backs — Mitchell, his primary backup, JaMycal Hasty (ankle), and rookie Trey Sermon (concussion) — all exited with injuries in their 17-11 win over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

Mitchell, a rookie sixthround pick who has become their lead back with Raheem Mostert out for the season, exited early in the fourth quarter. However, he returned and had three late-game carries for 10 yards after his replacemen­ts, Hasty and Sermon, were sidelined in his absence. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said Mitchell will have an MRI exam, but there is optimism his injury isn’t severe because he was able to return.

“He said he was good enough to come back in, so that’s when you think it’s a stinger,” Shanahan said. “But until you have time to look at the MRI, you never know. You’re hoping it’s just a stinger.”

After Hasty and Sermon were injured on a three-play sequence midway through the fourth quarter, the 49ers briefly returned to Cannon, 27, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday from the Ravens and was expected to only play on special teams. However, the kickoff returner and gunner with 50 career carries entered and had one carry on which he lost a yard.

“It was a really good job by Trenton,” Shanahan said. “He’s only been here since Wednesday. … We weren’t expecting him to come in at running back.”

The 49ers signed running back Kerryon Johnson to the practice squad Tuesday. They could move Johnson to the active roster for Sunday’s game against Green Bay if Mitchell, Hasty or Sermon is unavailabl­e.

Kinlaw’s debut: Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who has dealt with ongoing knee problems that sidelined him for the season opener, made his 2021 debut and declared that he emerged without any health issues.

“Felt excellent,” Kinlaw said. Kinlaw, who has downplayed his knee injury since he had surgery in January, showed no signs of being limited after he occasional­ly appeared hobbled during practice Thursday.

He was able to achieve liftoff to block a 48-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter, the 49ers’ first such block since 2016.

What’s the key to blocking a kick? Kinlaw, 6-foot-5 and 319 pounds, smiled.

“Got to have a little (vertical jump), that always helps,” Kinlaw said. “Height, too. Low kicks (help), too.”

Aiyuk appears: A major pregame story line was wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s reduced playing time in a seasonopen­ing performanc­e in which he was not targeted with a pass.

The 2020 first-round pick was only slightly more involved Sunday: He had one catch for 6 yards on two targets. Aiyuk was open deep over the middle in the first quarter, but Jimmy Garoppolo sailed his pass as he was being hit by defensive end Josh Sweat. Their only connection came at a key time: Aiyuk stretched out to make a 6-yard sideline catch on 3rd-and-2 on the fifth play of a 16-play, 92yard touchdown drive that gave the 49ers a 14-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“He made a hell of a catch,” Shanahan said. “The ball was a little bit high, but he made it and kept the chains moving.”

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