Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Aiyuk: I’m trying to maximize my role with the 49ers

May 25, 2022 at 10:50 AM--

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel had a breakout season in 2021, his third year in the league. The receiver drafted a year after Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, hopes to have a similar leap in production.

Aiyuk caught 56 passes last season, hauling in five touchdowns and a career-high 826 yards. However, it initially looked like the receiver's second NFL season would be unremarkable. He had just one reception for six yards through Week 2 and appeared to be in head coach Kyle Shanahan's dog house.

Aiyuk's production picked up after that and exploded in the second half of the season. He had 10 catches for 201 yards in the 49ers' final two regular-season games. Last season, nearly 50 percent of his receiving yards came in his final six games.

Reporters had a chance to speak with Aiyuk after Tuesday's practice. The receiver was asked about his goals entering his third NFL season.

"I think everybody has personal goals that they want [to achieve]," Aiyuk shared. "I know that comes alongside with everything we want to do as a football team. I'm just trying to really maximize my spot, my role that I have in this offense, and really let that take it where it's at.

"Of course I have goals for myself, but you never know how things are going to go, so I don't want to set myself short with my goals. I just feel like [I need to] maximize everything I get, maximize everything, starting right now in this offseason period, just being on my stuff. I know if I take care of what I need to take care of, I'm not worried about that at all. That will take care of itself."

While Deebo Samuel isn't in the building right now, Aiyuk only has to look at his teammate's efforts last offseason for the perfect roadmap to success. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked if he sees similarities between Samuel's efforts last offseason and Aiyuk's this year.

"Yeah, I think each year guys have, you learn stuff from it, and you learn how hard this league is, and guys usually go one or two ways each year," Shanahan responded. "They realize, 'Man, I have to put more work in and prepare for that long haul,' or, 'Man, that was exhausting, and I'm going to avoid that as long as I can until I have to come back again.'

"And usually the ones who get better and better are the ones who figure out what they have to do during the season and in the offseason to prepare them for that. And I think Brandon's done that each year. Deebo's been awesome with that stuff each year. And that's why, usually, veterans understand how to make it in this league a little bit better."

Assuming the 49ers can work out the contract extension dispute with Samuel, the fourth-year wideout will be the No. 1 target on offense for second-year quarterback Trey Lance. Aiyuk becoming a reliable No. 2 target, paired with other weapons like tight end George Kittle and running back Elijah Mitchell, could go a long way toward the team remaining a contender.

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