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Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

‘Deebo was extremely efficient’: Why Kyle Shanahan is starting to use Samuel more in the 49ers’ rushing attack

Nov 21, 2021 at 3:37 PM--

Well, that was unexpected. No, not the San Francisco 49ers' dominant performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The shocker was that Deebo Samuel was not the 49ers' leading receiver in the game. Instead, that was Brandon Aiyuk, who had 85 yards from seven catches.

That in itself isn't the surprising aspect of the stat sheet from San Francisco's 30-10 win. It's that paired with Samuel being the game's leading rusher.

"We planned on giving him some (carries) throughout the game," Shanahan said after the game. "We usually do. Usually, when things work, you come back to them. We had a couple different things with it and some play-actions I think we got in the third quarter -- I think one off of it."

Samuel finished the game with eight carries for 79 yards (9.9 yards per carry) and a rushing touchdown. Running back Jeff Wilson, who many figured would carry most of the load in the team's rushing attack on Sunday, finished the game with 19 carries and 50 rushing yards.

"When [Samuel] runs the ball that well, it's pretty impressive," Shanahan continued. "I think he had almost 10 yards a carry on eight runs. His longest was [25]. Usually, when a receiver does that, it's because they have like one 70-yarder. Deebo was extremely efficient. He got everything and more on those looks. I think he had one real bad look that he protected the ball and got down."

Samuel is proving to be the 49ers' most impactful offensive weapon this season. He is a Swiss Army Knife-type player that gives opposing defenses fits. Samuel can do it all — catch, run, and block. Sometimes, he shows off all those abilities in the same play while making talented defenders look silly.

Samuel has always been a versatile player. Last year, he was plagued by injuries that limited his ability to show off his skillset fully. This year, he has the numbers to prove he is among the league's best offensive weapons, and that may result in the 25-year-old's first Pro Bowl selection.

Said Shanahan: "We started to realize how good he was, I think, towards the second half of his rookie year. But we haven't tossed them, so he gets more running stats. He's continuing to get better at it, so we continue to do more."

How does Samuel like being a running back?

"I don't have nothing against it," Samuel responded. "Whechever way to get the ball in my hands, I'm all for it. But it's kind of natural back there, I'm not going to lie."

George Kittle is viewed as one of the top tight ends in the league. His versatility as a blocker has many believing he is the best overall tight end in the NFL. However, even Kittle, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro tight end, is extremely impressed with his teammate.

Kittle has no problem pushing around defensive ends or linebackers. However, he wouldn't be so quick to volunteer to line up in the backfield for the Niners.

"That's one of the positions (where) I'm like, 'Hey George, you wanna run the ball?' Not really," Kittle shared. "There's a lot of big guys in there that hit really hard, and they land on you, and it hurts. The fact that Deebo does it without blinking, it's awesome.

"When he has the mindset to run and score every time he touches the ball, it really sets the mindset for the entire team. You just love that and respect it."

Kirk Larrabee contributed to this article.

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