It’s always interesting to get the opposition’s point of view, and New Orleans head coach Sean Payton shared his thoughts on a couple of former San Francisco 49ers Wednesday. Let’s start with how he feels about a current Niner, Deebo Samuel:
“Just speaking on what I see with Deebo. There’s such a physical presence to him. What you see on film is one thing, but I can recall one thing, just being on the field level, his suddenness, the run ability, the run after the catch, and, to Kyle’s credit, not only sweeps, but shovels, and all of those elements that make him real difficult to defend. You see him in a lot of different spots. The impressive thing about that group is their yards after catch, their ability to block in the running game. They do a lot, and they do it very well.”
Samuel missed Wednesday’s practice, but he’s expected to be reevaluated on Thursday as Deebo recovers from a hamstring strain. It should come as no surprise that the 49ers had far and away their two best offensive outputs this season, both coming during Week’s 6 and 7 when Samuel was heavily involved in the gameplan. Last season, Samuel had five receptions for 76 yards against the Saints.
Payton also spoke about Emmanuel Sanders, the person. Kyle Shanahan spoke about the former 49ers wideout on Wednesday, saying this:
“He meant a ton, and I think it would have been real hard to get to where we got to if we didn’t make that move for him. He came in, did exactly what I was hoping for and more. Really hard to lose Emmanuel this offseason. One of the toughest decisions we had to make, but New Orleans came through and gave him what he deserved, and we had to move a different direction and go there in the draft. Just watching him and what he did for us in that game last year these last couple of days is unbelievable, and he’s doing an unbelievable job for them, also.”
To this day, I feel like fans underrated what Sanders did for this time on the field. He may not have always had the numbers, but Sanders was constantly running open last season. That’s not me throwing shade at Jimmy Garoppolo because he used Sanders when he was the intended target or whenever the Niners needed to make a play. Off the field, we saw how Sanders impacted the younger wideouts.
Here’s Payton’s quote on Sanders:
“Going through the process, I began to hear what you were talking about, [leadership, doing the right things] not only in San Francisco, but his time in Denver, and, that’s kind of part of the equation. One of the challenges in free agency is not only what you see on film but all of the other elements that go into it. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t have a lot of bad days. He is kinda upbeat. He brings that leadership to the room. He’s been good. He had the hiccup a couple of weeks back with the COVID like so many plays have had. It’s good to have him back in the lineup.”
Sanders hadn’t played since Week 5 before Sunday night’s game. In his two previous games, Sanders had 18 receptions for 215 yards. I asked Fred Warner if Sanders was a big trash talker in the same vein as his buddy Kwon Alexander:
E-man would come to work every day and put his head down. He wasn’t that big of a trash talker. He was just out there doing his thing, as the pro and veteran, he is. It’s going to be a huge challenge going against him, knowing what he did for us last year and knowing what he’s done for them on tape this year. I know I’m looking forward to it, as well as the other DBs.”
Speaking of Alexander, Payton was familiar with him not only from Kwon’s time in Tampa Bay but from his time at LSU as well. Here’s what Payton said about the former Niners linebacker:
“It was an area that we felt fit for us defensively. We had a few injuries. This is really the first week that he’s in the building just because of the protocols. We’ve got a lot of respect for his ability to run. He’s managed to thumper when he tackles. I’ve heard a ton of great things about just him. You know, there are a lot of ties with either players we know or coaches we know well. It’s good to have him in the building.”
Payton said you could sense Alexander’s energy the first day of practice, and you could see that on tape. Kwon’s contract was a disaster, and his injury history made it easy to move on from him, but when Alexander was on the field, he and Fred Warner were one of the best duos in the NFL.
Speaking of the best linebacker in the NFL, Payton spoke about what he’s seen from Warner and how he’s progressed over the past year:
“I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s one of those players who’s playing at an elite level. He’s got very good key and diagnose. He’s an extremely good tackler. Defensively, in general, it’s a really good tackling defense. He can play in coverage. He’s got real good football instincts. I feel like we’ve kinda seen his growth right in front of our eyes.”
Indeed we have, Sean. Warner’s growth as a player has been fun, and All-Pro Fred is nowhere near his ceiling as a player. An extension is on the horizon.