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Why Brandon Aiyuk is becoming even more valuable to the 49ers

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 30, 2023 at 4:22 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers handily defeated the New York Giants in Week 3, winning 30-12 to improve to 3-0 on their season, scoring over 30 points for the third consecutive week of the season.

Despite the comfortable win, the 49ers were nowhere near the "A-Game" offensively, struggling on some early drives and kicking field goals when touchdown opportunities were present, ultimately showcasing how dangerous this offense could be.

While there were missed opportunities present last Thursday, another element that the 49ers were missing was emerging wideout Brandon Aiyuk, who was inactive due to a shoulder injury.

Aiyuk has been on a tear to start the season, winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week in the opener for an eight-catch, 129-yard, and two-touchdown performance, but, ironically, his value to the 49ers was seen even more in his absence.

Aiyuk provides the 49ers with a true deep threat that can challenge defensive backs downfield, given his pristine route-running capabilities, and San Francisco missed that field-stretcher against the Giants last week, which allowed them to blitz at such a high rate.

The wideout provides the 49ers with a consistent threat to beat man-coverage, which limits defenses in their playcalling as they look to contain all of San Francisco's weapons.

As Aiyuk continues to develop into an elite-caliber receiving threat, it's clear that his value continues to increase for the 49ers, and head coach Kyle Shanahan knows it.

"[Aiyuk provides a ton at the x-position for our offense]," Shanahan said ahead of this week's matchup. "Every guy's so important that we have out there and every guy is a very good player and every guy affects the other player too. So, depending on where they roll the defense, everyone's got matchups and matchup advantages, but Aiyuk can run all the routes that any receiver can. He can play outside, he can play inside, he can play like a fast, quick guy and he can play like a long, big guy. Aiyuk is a very versatile player."

After missing Week 3, the 49ers will welcome their receiver back into the fold against the Arizona Cardinals, as head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed that Aiyuk is cleared to return this weekend.

"He had a real good week. Yeah, he's good to go, off the injury report. Excited to have him back."

While the 49ers do a great job of distributing the ball to their weapons offensively, which forces defenses to account for each threat, Aiyuk's presence will certainly be welcomed back in Week 4 as quarterback Brock Purdy looks to continue a solid start to his 2023 campaign.

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