One of the little melodramas of the 2021 rocking season for the San Francisco 49ers was the progress – or lack of it – by WR Brandon Aiyuk.
Last year’s Reception and Reception Team Leader was criticized by 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan after the Niners beat the Detroit Lions in Week 1 for not doing enough to get back into the starting XI. Shanahan made the blunt assessment after Aiyuk wasn’t even targeted that afternoon.
Since then, Shanahan has been softer in his assessments, making it clear that Aiyuk was slowed mainly by a hamstring injury he sustained last season and that the Arizona State product is slowly advancing to its former starting status.
Yet when the Niners go goodbye in Week 6, Aiyuk’s production was still not there, leaving NFL pundits, pundits and fans alike scratch your head about what really happened to the former first-round pick.
On Wednesday October 13th, 49ers GM John Lynch picked up on the subject when asked about it during a KNBR radio interview, and his findings did not shine a light on Aiyuk. Lynch said Aiyuk hadn’t done enough to meet the organization’s expectations.
“Brandon hasn’t made the progress we’d expect him to do,” Lynch told the show. “We’re probably keeping him to a higher standard because he’s got so much in his body and it’s important for a team to see how people earn these opportunities.”
Lynch praised Aiyuk’s skills and work ethic in his response, but his response also implied that the player and the organization were not on par on certain things, whatever those details may be.
“He’s a very talented young man and he’s also a hard worker,” said Lynch. “We went to great lengths to explain what the situation is now, but the bottom line is that we all have to find a way. I’m talking about us as a team and Brandon as a player because for us we have to get where we want to go, we need his talents and skills on the field.
“But I think you deserve your chances and do so during the week. It’s not that Brandon isn’t working hard, but that for some reason Brandon hasn’t made the progress we expect him to make. “
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Aiyuk, the 25th overall selection in the 2020 draft, was the team’s lead receiver as a rookie with 748 yards and five touchdown receptions.
This year he has eight catches on 15 targets for 90 yards.
The lack of production was particularly noticeable given the one-sided nature of the San Francisco pass attack. WR Deebo Samuel, a clear number 1 recipient, and TE George Kittle have made up more than half of the team’s receptions and goals.
But when Kittle missed the Arizona Cardinals game last week, the 49ers didn’t turn to Aiyuk to make up for that loss of production. Aiyuk was targeted four times in the 17:10 loss, two of which he caught for 32 yards. One of his aiyuk’s catches was a blinding one grip with one hand in the traffic.
Lynch noted the need to fill in Kittle’s absence during the interview, but suggested that Aiyuk was unwilling to take on that role, though that could change with more work from the wide receiver.
“Not only does he have what it takes to be a starting player in this league, he is also a very good player in this critical position,” said Lynch. “In order to be able to complement Deebo (Samuel) with George at the moment, we need this explosive element in our offensive. And that starts this week. It is important that we find out every day. “
The 2-3 49ers will next play the 1-4 Indianapolis Colts in Sunday Night Football in America, the NBC primetime game of the weekend, on Sunday October 24th. NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco reported that NBC has no plans to get out of the game to meet better teams.
When they play, it’s uncertain who will be the 49ers quarterback. QBs Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance both suffer from lower body injuries but both could be available in time for the week 7 game in Santa Clara. If Garoppolo is healthy, Shanahan said he would probably play.
Regardless of who throws the ball, Lynch’s comments suggest that everything related to Aiyuk’s playing time has to do with Aiyuk himself. He said the 49ers had communicated what they wanted from Aiyuk and were maximizing their skills, and it is only up to the recipient themselves to comply.
“I think there has been really good communication lately to get that out of him,” said Lynch. “It’s not that he’s the guy who doesn’t work hard, I think it’s just everyone who gets on the same page. I think he has to earn these opportunities, but I think it’s really important for him to be part of what we’re pushing for. “
According to the odds maker, the 49ers are 5-point favorites.
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But when Kittle missed the Arizona Cardinals game last week, the 49ers didn’t turn to Aiyuk to make up for that loss of production. Aiyuk was targeted four times in the 17:10 loss, two of which he caught for 32 yards. One of his aiyuk’s catches was a dazzling one grip with one hand in the traffic.