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49ers receiver feels Brandon Aiyuk is on the cusp of being ‘unguardable’

Jul 29, 2021 at 8:07 AM

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The San Francisco 49ers may have a punishing duo of starting wide receivers heading into 2021 thanks to a couple of draft picks over the past two years that appear ready to pay off. The team selected Deebo Samuel in the second round in 2019 and then Brandon Aiyuk in the first round a year later. Both could be gearing up for breakout NFL campaigns.

Aiyuk hauled in 60 receptions for 748 yards and five receiving touchdowns as a rookie. He also carried the football six times for 77 yards and two more scores. His receiving yards total ranks third all-time in franchise history for a rookie while his receptions rank second all-time, and his receiving touchdowns tie for second among first-year players.

Only Deebo Samuel and Jerry Rice had more receiving yards as 49ers rookies, while Earl Cooper and Dave Parks were the lone players to top Aiyuk's receptions and receiving touchdowns, respectively, in their first year.

According to reports out of Santa Clara, it sounds like Aiyuk had a good first day of training camp. He showed off his readiness during team drills with a 35-yard reception from Jimmy Garoppolo up the left sideline, per team reporter Keiana Martin.

That's good news for the 49ers, who hope to put last season's injury-marred season behind them and focus on returning to the Super Bowl.

"He's just one of those guys, his body language, it allows me to anticipate throws," Garoppolo said Wednesday while discussing the throw to Aiyuk. "So we had a couple of them today. The breakdown in the play that you're talking about ... usually as a quarterback, you've got to point them where you want him. And he just broke literally when I broke, when we escaped the pocket together."

Aiyuk had a setback during organized team activities with some groin tightness. The young receiver used the 40 days away from the team to get healthy and ready to compete in training camp.

"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," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I feel he's in a better spot, but time will tell."

Samuel sounds excited about the potential of the 49ers' receiving core featuring Aiyuk, George Kittle, and himself — three players who specialize in racking up yards after that catch. It has earned them the nickname of "The YAC Bros."

While Aiyuk appears to be off to a good start, Samuel knows there is always room for improvement.

"One thing that we always pick on BA about is coming off the ball because he has everything else — the routes, the hands," Samuel told reporters on Wednesday. "So, if he can come off the ball like he's supposed to every play, he's kind of an unguardable guy."
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