We have talked plenty about the struggles of the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver group. After Monday night’s performance, it’s impossible not to. Emmanuel Sanders is the clear No. 1. Deebo Samuel is No. 2, and after that, it’s up for grabs. I think we forget how young these guys are. Samuel, Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, and Richie James have all been in the league for less than three years. There were always going to be growing pains with this group. The defense is better than expected, and the 49ers handled business the first half of the season, which heightened expectations and, in turn, has sped up the development process for the youth at wide receiver.
Samuel went over 100 yards Monday night. He was the first rookie on the 49ers to have at least eight catches, and 100 yards in a game since some guy named Jerry Rice did it in 1985. Samuel’s role was always going to grow and evolve as the season went along. He won’t be on the list because he doesn’t deserve to be. Let’s talk about potentials.
Kyle Shanahan was asked about Richie James and his lack of involvement and what it will take for him to get more snaps:
”It depends on the week. We were only going to have five up that week, but we ended up having some, what was it, Ahkello ended up not dressing so we went one extra with the receivers and one less at corner. That was the risk that we took, but it was have 45 up or not. We ended up getting 46 with having six receivers. We got Richie out there as punt returner. We planned all week because we thought we were going to have a situation at DB, where Richie wasn’t going to be in much on offense.
That doesn’t sound like a coach with much confidence in James. The 49ers punt returner has caught five of his nine targets for 108 yards this season and a touchdown. Four of those have gone for first downs. He does have a drop, and an interception, and a penalty. Several fans have wondered where James has been in the offense, yet there haven’t been any answers provided. Even Shanahan’s response above is evasive. Because James hasn’t failed, there are plenty of fans that would like to see him get a shot.
Pettis has built an Airbnb in Shanahan’s doghouse. “The more he doesn’t take advantage of his opportunities, the less opportunities he gets,” was his quote, though Shanahan continued that he believes in Pettis. Pettis had three targets against Seattle, he had a “drop,” but the timing of the play was thrown off when Jimmy Garoppolo double-clutched. I’m not the body language police, but some of the routes Pettis runs don’t come off as someone who is 100% engaged. I wonder how much that has affected his playing time. It’s been four games since Pettis has had more than three targets. I’m not sure when the next time he will, either.
Shanahan’s confidence in the veteran appears to be fading. Here is Shanahan on why Goodwin only played ten snaps:
”He had an injury in the game. His arm was cramping up; he had a finger issue, so he was out for a few series. Then the way things were going in the game, you know, we just didn’t rotate him back in much.”
What I’ve seen from Goodwin is that he can get open, but he can’t make the contested catch. More often than not, you’re going to have some resistance in the NFL when you’re targeted. Because Shanahan isn’t stretching the field, defensive backs are sitting on Goodwin’s routes. Garoppolo missed Goodwin high on his first target, the defender made a nice play on another target, and Goodwin dropped his other target. It’s been a disappointing season for the Olympian. Three drops on 19 targets, and not being able to come through in contested situations have made it difficult to rely on Goodwin. In the last three games, Garoppolo is 2-7 went targeting Goodwin.
Bring on Bourne
Between the players mentioned so far, my vote goes to Bourne. The result from Bourne’s drops was catastrophic and led to points for Seattle and took points off the board for the 49ers. They couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s important to understand that not all drops are the same. “Focus” drops are forgivable, in my opinion. The results are frustrating, but I still believe Bourne has good hands. We’ve seen him catch the ball in traffic and over the middle all season.
Before Monday night, Bourne has one drop on 16 targets all season. Catching was the least of Bourne’s issues. It feels like a prisoner of the moment to give up on Bourne, so I’m not.
Jalen Hurd was eligible to return to practice this week, but we’re still a week or so away from him practicing. It’s a bit of a stretch to assume Hurd will be thrown into the lineup as the 49ers third wideout. Is he talented? A few practices during training camp and a preseason game where Hurd found the end zone twice would suggest his ceiling is as high as anyone’s on the roster.
We’re in November and Hurd hasn’t played a game. Let’s say Hurd returns to practice next week and is active for the rest of the season. The Packers and Ravens both have long, athletic defensive backs that could present trouble for the rookie out of the gate. Because Hurd is an unknown and hasn’t lost fans’ confidence, he’s running away with the victory in our Twitter poll. Shanahan will put Hurd in a position to succeed; it’ll be on him to come through. We’ll find out what Hurd has, and hopefully, it’s sooner than later.
Which receiver listed below do you have the most confidence in to close the 49ers season?
Which WR do you trust the most?
This poll is closed