Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports


How the 49ers’ offense will overcome the loss of Deebo Samuel

Oct 27, 2020 at 11:02 AM


On Monday, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that wide receiver Deebo Samuel will likely miss the next two games while he recovers from a hamstring injury that occurred in the 4th quarter of the 49ers victory over the New England Patriots. The loss of Samuel is a devastating blow to a 49er offense that looked like it was beginning to fire on all cylinders after impressive performances in back to back weeks. Finding a way to fill the void left behind by Samuel is imperative as the 49ers face the already daunting task of taking on the Seahawks and Packers in back to back weeks, as both teams sit at 5-1 and at the tops of their respective divisions. Samuel has such a unique skill set that it will be hard for any one player on his own to replicate what Samuel brings to the table, which is why the 49ers' best shot at replacing his production will be through a group effort.

Over the last two weeks, Samuel has had 15 touches on offense, both carrying and catching the football, demonstrating the flexibility Shanahan covets so much in his offensive playmakers. Luckily the 49ers have another highly versatile player on the offensive side of the ball in fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who has the capability to line up all over the field. While he primarily lines up in the backfield, Juszczyk has also logged snaps this season out wide as well as in the slot. Juszcyzk has the talent to be an effective receiver, particularly when he lines up in the backfield in a tight formation that leads the defense to believe the 49ers will be running the ball. Since the start of the 2019 season, the 49ers are 8-1 when Juszcyzyk has at least 15 receiving yards, including their last game in Seattle when Juszczyk lined up in the slot and beat a linebacker deep for a 49-yard reception. Juszczyk has also shown his value as a ball carrier in the red zone, scoring two touchdowns on the ground over the last three games, displaying the tremendous versatility he brings to this offense.

The recent emergence of 2019 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk has given an offense that was starved for production from the wide receiver position early in the season a significant boost. Aiyuk is coming off an impressive game against the Patriots that saw him record 6 catches for 115 yards, his first game eclipsing 100 receiving yards in the National Football League. Aiyuk possesses a very similar skillset to Samuel as both have an exceptional knack for racking up yards after the catch. That explosiveness translates well to the run game as well, where Aiyuk has already recorded two rushing touchdowns and shown the ability to run the jet sweep and reverses that Samuel has excelled at. While Aiyuk isn't the physical runner that Samuel is (you would be hard-pressed to find another wide receiver who is), he does have a bit more agility to his game, which has been apparent when he has gotten into open space. I fully expect Aiyuk to have an increased workload and to see an uptick in the number of pre-snap motions and gadget plays to make up for the touches Samuel would normally receive.

And last but certainly not least, the 49ers have the ultimate weapon in the form of All-Pro tight end George Kittle, who does a little bit of everything for this offense. Kittle has already gained respect amongst his colleagues as one of, if not the best blocking tight ends in the game, but he has also been a yards-after-the-catch machine in his time as a 49er, averaging 7.6 yards after the catch over the course of his career. Kittle's ability to combine speed and toughness to bowl over opposing defenders is probably the closest skill set to the one that Samuel brings to this offense, as we have seen Kittle's eye-popping speed in the open field as well as his dominating physicality making him a nightmare for opposing defenders to bring down. Additionally, Kittle has shown the ability to run with the football on jet sweeps, causing opposing defenses to have to account for him when he motions pre-snap and respect the 6.1 yards per carry he has averaged in his career running the football. Kittle is as complete of a football player as you will find at the NFL level, and his broad skill set and willingness to do whatever the team asks of him is a luxury that you cannot put a price on.

The loss of Samuel will sting, but the 49ers possess the depth and talent to tread water on offense till he returns. In the two games he is expected to miss, the 49ers will face a Seahawk team that is ranked dead last in total defense, and a Packers team that has shown some vulnerability defending the pass, as it currently ranks 18th in the league in pass yards allowed per game. Next man up has been the motto of the 2020 season for the 49ers, and as long as Shanahan is calling plays for this offense it will have a chance to put up points no matter who the opponent is.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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