Football returns tonight!
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are not likely to practice on Wednesday, Shanahan said, as the 49ers begin preparations to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in the season opener.
Samuel underwent surgery in June to repair a fractured foot. He was activated off the non-football injury list on Saturday. Aiyuk, whom the 49ers chose with the No. 25 overall pick, has been out since Aug. 23 with a hamstring strain.
If Samuel and Aiyuk do not get a full week of practice, their availability for Sunday’s game is in question. Center Ben Garland (ankle) is expected to see limited practice, while cornerback Jason Verrett (hamstring) is out, Shanahan said.
San Francisco 49ers: “I think they’ve done a great job of getting the type of players that fit Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Jordan Reed could potentially be a really big factor for them. Obviously, George Kittle is the best tight end in the league and was a mismatch problem to begin with. So now you have two of those guys? Then you have Deebo Samuel, who kind of handles the — I don’t want to say he’s the possession guy, he’s better than that — but he’s so physical after the catch and is great with the ball in his hands. And Brandon Aiyuk, we felt, could be a complete vertical receiver, short to intermediate and run after the catch. He’s got some strength to him. Offensively, I think they’re really solid. And Kyle just makes it even better. His play calling is phenomenal. Offensively, I don’t think there will be any drop-off. The quarterback’s a good point guard, and he’s got playmakers around him. So it’s just, ‘Don’t mess it up.’”
The team’s new campaign is based on the slogan “Faithful to the Bay,” which clearly draws attention to the fact that the Niners are now the only team in the Bay Area. The Raiders officially moved to Las Vegas this offseason after spending 25 years in Oakland.
49ers chief marketing officer Alex Chang denied that the slogan had anything to do with the Raiders or their departure, via Ryan Barwick of Adweek:
“We’re not trolling the Raiders; that was one of our key tenets internally. We don’t have a plan or a strategy to convert Raiders fans — sports fans are inherently loyal, as they should be. We, as a team, respect that loyalty.”
This will now be the third time the 49ers will be facing Murray. There shouldn’t be a ton of new tricks in his arsenal that will surprise the 49ers, so they will be well prepared to handle him. This defense isn’t just elite because of their pass rush. The discipline they showed in coverage for the majority of the 2019 season is still there, despite how some pundits will just use the Super Bowl to call their coverage average.
Familiarity helps the 49ers here, but most of all it is their overall team speed, specifically at the linebacker position. Murray will not be ripping chunk plays with his legs because any of the starting base defense linebackers can run him down. And should Murray roll out to buy time, the linebackers have the quickness to recover. By that time, the pass rush should be getting to Murray.
“We just got back in from walkthrough and it’s orange out here, too,” Shanahan said. “I feel like I’m in the Book of Eli, it’s like an apocalyptic state out there.”
Despite the dark pall over their practice fields, the air quality, at least for now, has not surged into dangerous territory. According to Shanahan, the team’s measurement on the air quality index was a healthy 69 during the team’s walkthrough Wednesday. That number remained in the 60s during practice.
That’s notable because the NFL will not allow teams to play or practice outside should that number surge to 200 or above on Sunday. To this point, the wildfires that have been burning for the past three weeks have not caused the Niners to cancel practice because of air quality.
“Whether Dante is going to play a lot, play a little, he’s kind of in the same boat with about four other guys.”
“What I can say is that Dante is so much more prepared right now for the season than he was last year at this time,” Shanahan continued. “Just the work that he put in while he was away, the stuff I said earlier in the year, but it definitely hasn’t changed.
“Everyone battled through camp, and had some good days, some bad days. But Dante was so prepared for camp, fought through camp, the tough days, and I think took a number of steps forward as a receiver. And whether he gets his opportunity this week or some other time throughout the year, he’s put himself in a position to have a chance to be successful.”