Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

ESPN lists wide receiver as the 49ers’ Achilles heel heading into 2020 season

Aug 31, 2020 at 6:36 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers exited the draft with significant depth at wide receiver, it seemed. Injuries have quickly diminished some of that depth.

Second-year wideout Deebo Samuel suffered a Jones fracture in June. He was — and still may be — expected to be a major offensive factor in 2020. Head coach Kyle Shanahan remains hopeful that Samuel will be ready for Week 1.

Another receiver from last year's draft class, Jalen Hurd, will miss his second consecutive season, this time due to a torn ACL. He is on injured reserve and has yet to play a regular-season snap in the NFL.

Richie James underwent surgery on his hand in June and is expected to miss a significant amount of time. Although, he could play this season. Travis Benjamin opted out due to COVID-19 concerns.

Rookie Brandon Aiyuk is dealing with a hamstring injury and missed much of training camp, but could be ready to hit the football field by Week 1. Even All-Pro tight end George Kittle hasn't been immune to injuries, as he deals with a tight hamstring.

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These are the reasons why Bill Barnwell of ESPN lists wide receiver as the 49ers' Achilles heel during the upcoming season. He notes that, despite the lengthy injury list, the cupboard is not bare for Shanahan.

"Bourne's role diminished in 2019, but he seems likely to start in the slot ahead of the returning Trent Taylor, who missed all of last season," wrote Barnwell. "Bourne was an every-down regular compared to Dante Pettis, who seemed to be in Shanahan's doghouse before the 2019 season and played only nine offensive snaps after Week 9. Pettis seemed like trade fodder heading into the offseason, but now the 49ers might need him for meaningful action."

Pettis has seemingly stepped up this offseason, showing great strides during training camp and garnering praise from Shanahan and teammates.

"Yeah, he's been coming along," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said on August 18. "It's very encouraging, just the physicality that he's playing with, the competitiveness that he's bringing. You love to see that, and it's just one of those things that you've got to keep it rolling."

Then you have former first-round draft picks, Tavon Austin and Kevin White, who are trying to reignite their careers and prove themselves by making and contributing to the 49ers roster.

"Aiyuk will likely beat Samuel back to the field, though both players are at risk of aggravating their injuries," added Barnwell. "Shanahan loves his weapons, but the threat of speed and the ability to break away after the catch is more important to this offense than any individual wideout."

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