Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan raves about the offseason preparation of WR Brandon Aiyuk

Jul 27, 2022 at 10:06 AM--

After getting out of the gates sluggishly in 2021, 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is full speed ahead as he approaches the 2022 season.

Big things were expected of Aiyuk in 2021 following an impressive rookie season that saw him catch 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games after being selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. But he had a surprising lack of impact over the early portion of the 2021 season, catching just nine passes for 96 yards and one touchdown over his first six games.

It turned out there were some things going on behind the scenes where 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan wasn't seeing what he expected to see out of Aiyuk as a second-year player. Some honest conversations on the matter took place between Shanahan and Aiyuk, then over the second half of the season, Aiyuk finished strong with 17-game totals of 56 catches for 826 yards and five touchdowns.

Shanahan spoke about Aiyuk before the 49ers' first training camp practice on Wednesday and made it clear the young receiver hasn't stopped trending in the right direction. As a matter of fact, Shanahan said Aiyuk has been exemplary in how he's approached the last few months.

"I'm impressed how Aiyuk's carried himself," Shanahan said. "I think everyone knows how it started off last year. He was a little bit behind where I wanted him. He accepted the challenge and handled it like a man and got so much better and just went to work. I think that showed to everyone as the year went through. It showed to his team especially, the quarterbacks. The way he came back for the offseason, it was awesome. He was so prepared and one of the leaders of our team, and that continued into the offseason."

Aiyuk also seems to already have a strong chemistry with new starting quarterback Trey Lance. The two of them have been spending time together on and off the field, including some throw-and-catch sessions over the summer.

"Some guys just hang around the quarterbacks so people write articles about it and they can get brownie points, but that's not Aiyuk's style," Shanahan said. "I liked where he was before he left, and the fact he was with Trey for so long makes a lot of sense because he seems pretty determined."

Aiyuk and Lance turned up around Shanahan's house recently, where they took on a workout challenge with general manager John Lynch. The two of them were then able to cool off for a bit in the ocean afterwards.

"They were just down by us working out," Shanahan said. "They went to go run some suicide hill or something they call it. Lynch did it with them. Lynch didn't win. And then when they were done, they came over because it was right by my house. We were just going to go up to lunch. They went in the ocean for the first time. That was fun to watch."

Aiyuk has been a popular pick as a potential breakout player this season for the 49ers, and Shanahan's words suggest those predictions could come true. Those words are also great news for a 49ers offense that will be working on forming chemistry under their new starting quarterback.

"The tighter your team is is always an advantage, but especially (at quarterback and receiver)," Shanahan said.
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