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Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk takes a step forward in his second NFL game

Sep 27, 2020 at 4:50 PM--

After getting his feet wet in his NFL debut last week against the New York Jets, rookie wide receiver and first-round draft pick Brandon Aiyuk took the next step against the New York Giants Sunday, finishing with five catches for 70 yards along with three carries for 31 yards and a touchdown.

Aiyuk, who missed the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals as well as a portion of training camp due to a hamstring injury, saw 44 snaps of action in the 49ers' 31-13 Week 2 win over the Jets and caught two passes for 21 yards. He played a much bigger role in the 49ers' 36-9 win over the Giants in Week 3 and gave some glimpses of what he might deliver down the line.

"I was just excited to come back and play that next game because I got that feeling out of the way of not knowing what it would be like out there," Aiyuk told reporters following the game. "After I got that out of the way, I was excited to get to work this week and knew I'd be more of an option in the offense. So it was a fun week and exciting. I'm glad the week of practice somewhat translated in the game. Still a lot of things to clean up but steps in the right direction."

Not many would have predicted coming into the season that Aiyuk's first NFL touchdown would come on a run, but that's exactly what happened during the third quarter of the win over the Giants. Aiyuk was given two carries earlier in the game, then broke free on his run in the third quarter for a 19-yard score.

"When that play was called, I was expecting it to be explosive," Aiyuk said. "We talked about it all week. When I got the ball and I saw a lot of white in front of me, I just had to finish it and do the rest."

Despite his successes against the Giants, there were also some moments when Aiyuk showed he still has some things to work on, at least in the eyes of head coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan told reporters after the game he was pleased with Aiyuk's performance even though he had plays in the first half during which he made mistakes that most observers may not have noticed.

"I probably shouldn't have said that because his struggles are to my own standard and kind of how I am with these guys a little bit," Shanahan said. "It was just a couple plays I want him to do a little bit better on, but by no means were they bad to where anyone else would have noticed. I decided he was more aggressive in the second half on some of his routes and things, even when he didn't get the ball."

Aiyuk agreed that he has some areas where he can improve, even if those areas may not seem like major issues in the big scheme of things.

"Just little things within plays that we've talked about or he mentioned or me not seeing it," Aiyuk said. "So just little things. That's something that I've also learned really quickly -- that a lot of the little things matter and everything's magnified."

Regardless, Aiyuk showed Sunday he's quickly developing into a handy weapon for the 49ers offense, which is quite important considering the team is currently without top receiver Deebo Samuel due to a foot injury and lost wide receiver Jalen Hurd in August to a torn ACL. Like those two players, Aiyuk is proving he can help the 49ers as a runner and a receiver, which will only help the offense in the long run.

"The more guys you have who can run the ball and the more guys you have who can catch the ball, it gives you a lot of options when you're putting things together," Shanahan said. "It also helps you a lot when you have injuries too. Today showed a lot about our depth also, just some of the guys who stepped up and did some things. Hopefully we can keep playing this way and slowly but surely get a lot of these guys back as we move forward."

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