Brandon Aiyuk’s acrobatic catches have been the talk of the 49ers’ offense in training camp. His elevated level of play has been noticeable to observers, and free safety Jimmie Ward went so far as to say Aiyuk is having the best camp among all the 49ers.
Ward, 31, is entering his ninth season and he’s not one to mince words or dance around a subject. In a post-practice press conference Wednesday he was straightforward and effusive in his praise of the third-year wide receiver.
“Right now he’s having an outstanding camp,” Ward said. “I feel like he’s having the best camp out of everybody on the team, offense and defense.”
There was on caveat.
“Oh. Besides Bosa. Bosa gonna be Bosa,” he said. “But I’m just saying, B.A. is taking his game to another level. It’s crazy. I didn’t win a one-on-one rep with him yet. I wanna say last year there were a couple reps that I won against him, but not this year. I’ma get him soon though.”
Here’s a video of one of those one-on-one reps Aiyuk won:
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 2, 2022
A big year for Aiyuk would be huge for the 49ers for a couple of reasons.
First, he’s been on the cusp of a breakout since his rookie season. His slow start to last year put him in a dangerous spot for a career turning point. He finished the season very strong and appears to have taken lessons learned in last year’s camp and applied them to put together his best camp this season.
Last year some poor practice habits led Aiyuk to exist in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s “dog house,” which culminated in the 2020 first-round pick posting just 141 yards and one touchdown on 13 catches in the first seven games. He busted out over the final 10 though and put up 43 catches, 685 yards and four touchdowns in those contests.
Second, a big year for Aiyuk probably means Trey Lance is settling in well. It’s clear through a week-plus of practices that the two have a good rapport. Having a go-to receiver that he trusts would be paramount for Lance’s development.
Camp won’t tell the whole story of the season, but this is a very good start for Aiyuk in what could be a crucial year for him in San Francisco’s offense.