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Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk says he has “a lot of room to improve” after NFL debut

Sep 20, 2020 at 3:59 PM--

Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk made his NFL debut for the San Francisco 49ers against the New York Jets on Sunday and came away with an experience that left him with some positives and some negatives.

Aiyuk notched two catches for 21 yards in Sunday's 31-13 win over the Jets after missing the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals while recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered in training camp. His first catch was a bit of an odd one, as he came away with the ball in his hands after running into wide receiver Kendrick Bourne:

Aiyuk made his second catch later in the game on a play during which he was able to show some of his ability to create yards after the catch. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan singled out that play when speaking with reporters after the game, while also adding Aiyuk made a couple errors he'll need to correct in the future.

"I was happy for Brandon," Shanahan said. "Anytime you're a rookie and you get to go in your first game, there's always a lot of pressure on you and stuff, especially with the fact he hadn't been out at practice that much and missing those three weeks. He got kind of thrown into the fire this week in practice and I thought he only did better in the game. He made a couple plays, broke a couple tackles, a couple rookie mistakes too, which we'll harping on, but that's a little expected. It was nice to see the game wasn't too big for him. He caught the ball, I thought he had a good off-schedule play and I always love watching guys break tackles."

Aiyuk's self-evaluation of his debut was similar to that of Shanahan, but he's happy to have some mistakes under his belt as he moves forward.

"A couple rookie mistakes. Mistakes that shouldn't have been made but mistakes I'll definitely have to learn from," Aiyuk told reporters after the game. "I'll have to look at the film and just learn from those next week. But I feel good I got those out."

Aiyuk admitted there were some rookie nerves he had to shake off in his first game, but he also felt there wasn't any rust on his end or any lack of chemistry with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after missing multiple weeks of practice due to his injury.

"I feel like this week in practice we just practiced as if I didn't miss those practices," Aiyuk said. "I don't think that was anything we were concerned about. It was playing our game, just me playing my own game, then just waiting for my opportunity and waiting for my connection to happen."

The return of Aiyuk came at the right time for the 49ers, whose receiving corps had been decimated due to injury heading into last week. Aiyuk will get plenty of opportunities in the near future to show why the 49ers felt he was worth the No. 25 overall pick in the 2020 draft, starting with the 49ers' Week 3 game against the New York Giants.

"I'm just ready to go to practice this week and have another week and another game and continue to keep getting better," Aiyuk said. "I would say (I have) a lot of room to improve."

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