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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo on Brandon Aiyuk: “He moves differently than pretty much all receivers on our team”

Rohan Chakravarthi
Nov 18, 2022 at 7:05 PM--

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has developed a strong connection with wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk this season, as the third-year wideout leads the team in targets(62), receptions(44), yards(567), and touchdowns(4).

After a season in which Garoppolo missed several intermediate routes that Aiyuk ran, especially corner routes between the safeties and linebackers, the two have connected in several ways this season, especially over the middle.

Regardless of what route Aiyuk is running, Garoppolo has confidence in his receiver to make the play, especially with his route-running ability that allows him to separate from defenders.

"I just run the plays, whatever is called, whatever the route is for him. We just make the best of the situation, make the best of that play and you know B's got a wide variety of routes that he's good at. He's able to get in and out of routes differently than most receivers, just with the length of his legs. It's different. He moves differently than pretty much all receivers that are on our team at least. That's how he separates, so whether it's going in or out, doesn't really matter to me. I don't have a preference [on what route Aiyuk runs], but just whatever's called, I make the best of it."

When talking about practice reps, Garoppolo marveled over Aiyuk's big-play ability, which stems from his catch radius, that has increased his confidence in his receiver.

"He has [crazy catches in practice] every day. It's kind of becoming routine, honestly. His arms are so long that I'm learning his catch radius and how it's just different. He had one today over the middle, I put it high in front of him and he just went and got it. Some of those you do on purpose with the location of the defender and some, he just makes you look good as a quarterback, so you love having a guy like that."

As a result, there are instances where Garoppolo doesn't mind throwing a contested ball to Aiyuk, understanding that he's placing the ball only where his receiver can get it, due to that extended catch radius.

"I can't think of one off the top of my head right now, but there's been ones in the past where it looks like he's covered and you just put it outside of his frame and he can reach it and the DB can't."

Not only does Aiyuk have the ability to perform in the receiving game, but Aiyuk is a willing blocker in the running game, which doesn't go unnoticed by his teammates.

"[His personality] somewhere right in between [shy and that angry mentality]. B's not the most talkative guy, but I have no problem with that. He talks when he needs to talk and says things that need to be said, but he plays angry, man. Especially in the run game when he's blocking those safeties and pinning a D-end, it's cool having a guy like that on your team."

As for how Aiyuk has the ability to separate, his quarterback pointed to his long limbs that attribute to his ability to get out of breaks swiftly, which is unique.

"Yeah, he has long limbs in general. When you watch him run, at least to me, it looks different than other receivers. When you have long legs like that, some receivers can't really get out of the break, they just get stuck kind of and Brandon has the strength to get out of that, which is just unique."

This season, Aiyuk has taken on an increased level of responsibility, which was seen by his response following the dropped touchdown during the game. Garoppolo shared insight into Aiyuk's development in his maturity, while assuring that he'll continue to get opportunities in those situations.

"Yeah, I think if that would've happened last year, I don't know if that would've been the same response. It's a testament to show how far he has come as a player and as a person. This time compared to last year, B, he really is a different person in the locker room, how he carries himself, everything. It's starting to show on the field. He'll get more ops and obviously we'd love to have that one back, but he'll get more ops."

In regards to who he looks for on the field, Garoppolo believes he doesn't really think about it, but understands the capabilities of certain receivers, which allows him to throw tougher passes for certain players, such as Aiyuk.

"You don't really think about it. It's you just learn the guys throughout practice, training camp, OTAs. You learn the guys, what they can do, what they can't do. And that's why sometimes in practice you might throw a ball that's iffy that you wouldn't throw in the game, but you learn, like alright this guy can make that catch, he can make this adjustment and just go from there."

Offensive line coach Chris Foerster issued a similar sentiment on Aiyuk, speaking about the multi-faceted abilities that the Arizona State product possesses, not only as a receiver, but as a blocker.

"B.A.'s a tough guy now. B.A. catches the ball, puts it away, does what he's supposed to do with it in the pass game, runs his routes, does all that stuff, but in a blocking game, man, he never turns it down. He likes to block. Like all receivers, man, it's a balancing act between getting him catches and doing everything like that and then blocking."

Foerster believes that ability is important for the receivers in the system, and agrees that all of San Francisco's options bode well as blockers.

They're not all going to be trained killers 24/7, but B.A. does an outstanding job of blocking. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] does a great job. [WR Jauan] Jennings does a great job. All our guys, I don't want to leave anybody out. They all do it. They put their bodies in there, they go after it, they block, they do what they're supposed to do. And Brandon's really developed because that's something in college oftentimes that they're not expected to do so it's a learned thing when they get to the NFL."

Aiyuk will continue to get his opportunity to shine as San Francisco's top option when the 49ers travel to Mexico City to face the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.

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