Day 1 of the 49ers practice saw glowing reviews for second-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. He was the recipient of two big plays from both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance.
As most coaches do, Kyle Shanahan wanted to pump the brakes on Aiyuk’s hype train, citing that it was only the first day:
“I mean, it was day one, so I’ll have a good idea probably after three days. But I was impressed with them today. I know he came into OTAs feeling pretty ready. Had a little bit of a setback in OTAs with, I think, it was some groin tightness. And I know what he did with as 40 days away.
I feel like that helped him. He thought he was ready, which he seemed close to it. Had a little bit of setback and just talking to him and seeing him out there, he’s done everything he can to improve off that. I feel he’s in a better spot, but time will tell.”
Shanahan using the word impressed, jumps out. He wasn’t the only one who had great things to say about Aiyuk.
Garoppolo said he didn’t get the chance to work out with Aiyuk over the summer, but the trust factor between the two has been “awesome.” Jimmy said it started during OTAs:
Started from, I mean when he first got here, we had a good OTAs together. He’s just one of those guys, his body language, it allows me to anticipate throws. So we had a couple of them today.
The breakdown in the play that you’re talking about, honestly, there wasn’t even, usually as a quarterback, you got point them where you want him. And he just, he broke literally when I broke, when we escaped the pocket together, it was kind of weird, but it’s just guys like that when you can trust them with their body language, [WR] Mohamed [Sanu Sr.] had a couple plays today like that. It just it gives you confidence as a quarterback, I guess.”
Timing will be critical for those two, and if they are on the same page on the first day, you can’t ask for much more. However, with the repetition each will get over the next month and a half, they should be firing on all cylinders by the time Week 1 rolls around.
Deebo Samuel said if Aiyuk can fix one specific thing, he can become unguardable:
“One thing that we always pick on BA about is coming off the ball because he has everything else — the routes, the hands. So, if he can come off the ball like he’s supposed to every play, he’s kind of an unguardable guy.”
Aiyuk did get hung up at the line of scrimmage at times as a rookie, which is understandable for a first-year wideout. However, it’s good to have teammates, coaches, and self-awareness to know that this is an area that can be improved upon.
Aiyuk’s frame makes him seem bigger than 205 pounds, and strength isn’t an issue. It’s more about him using his hands to protect himself and not letting defensive backs get into his chest or make the first contact.
If this is the only complaint about a wideout who had north of 700 yards receiving as a rookie despite having two backup quarterbacks throw to him all season, we’re talking about a special player.