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Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan shares what 49ers rookie WR Danny Gray must do to earn more playing time

Nov 2, 2022 at 11:20 AM--

Everyone figured Danny Gray, the San Francisco 49ers' rookie speedster of a wide receiver, could help stretch the field for head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense. Instead, Gray has barely seen much time on the field. He's played only 33 offensive snaps this season, with five coming on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

Despite appearing in five games this season, fans are still waiting to see Gray haul in his first pass. He's been targeted six times but has yet to come away with a reception. The rookie caught four passes for 123 yards and a touchdown during the preseason, perhaps generating some unrealistic expectations for the games that counted.

Gray could become more of a factor in the second half of the season. Shanahan discussed the rookie wideout on Monday, sharing what Gray has to do to earn more playing time.

"He just has to continue to be more consistent, be able to do everything, down in and down out," Shanahan said via a conference call. "You never know what plays you're going to be in there on, so it can't just be stuff that exactly fits your skillset.

"You have to be able to block, you have to be able to run the other routes, you have to know where to line up, and just all the things that rookies go through that just has to make him more consistent to beat out some of the guys that are in front of him."

Some wondered if Gray might earn his first NFL catch against the Rams. After all, the 49ers were without wideouts Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings.

That didn't happen.

Wide receiver Willie Snead, promoted to the active roster ahead of Sunday's game, played 21 offensive snaps. Only Tay Martin, a wideout elevated from the practice squad for the matchup, had fewer offensive snaps (1) than Gray.

Running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk were the only 49ers players with more than three receptions against the Rams. Gray was not targeted in his five snaps at SoFi Stadium.

The 49ers tried to get him involved a week earlier against the Kansas City Chiefs, putting him into the game for a deep shot in the second quarter. However, Gray was penalized for a false start.

Last week, Jimmy Garoppolo was asked about his rookie teammate. The quarterback acknowledged that it is challenging for a rookie receiver to earn playing time in Shanahan's offense when those further up the depth chart have had years to become familiar with the system.

"Things keep evolving and growing, and it's the rookie's job to catch up as quickly as possible," Garoppolo said. "And I think Danny's doing a good job of that. He gives us some good plays. The dude's fast as hell. He really is. And there's a place for that. We just need to find it."


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