Is this the week Aiyuk gets back to the player we saw last week?
Another week in the NFL has come and gone without 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk making an impact. The former first-round wide receiver had his first touch behind the line of scrimmage in Week 7, but he was literally upended after a short gain. Then, his lone reception came on a curl route.
One carry and one target. That was it for Aiyuk, although he was open on a deep route that would have been the 49ers’ longest touchdown pass of the season.
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked Wednesday what needs to happen with Aiyuk for him to have more production on offense and whether it’s on the player or the coaching staff to get him more involved:
“I want Aiyuk to keep getting better. I don’t think he’s quite back to where he was last year. And I expected him to be better this year than last year. I think he’s still trying to get back to that point, which I think he’s closer to that point right now than he was a couple of weeks ago because he has been working hard and trying to get there. And if he keeps doing that I believe things will get better for him and us.”
From what I remember, Aiyuk lined up in the front of the line Wednesday for the first time since training camp when the wide receivers were doing their individual drills.
That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I’m betting it means the world to a coach like Shanahan. Instead of a player going through the motions, he wants a leader who has an alpha mentality. Someone that doesn’t think twice about getting in the front of the line.
“For him and us” is Shanahan being honest. Aiyuk was a weapon for the 49ers’ offense last season. He’s been AWOL this year. Against the Colts, San Francisco attempted to get Aiyuk involved earlier with a reverse but didn’t go back to him until late in the game. I’m not going to pretend as though Aiyk has played at a Ja’Marr Chase level. That hasn’t happened.
Still, I have a difficult time seeing Mohamed Sanu and Trent Sherfield continue to get targets on routes Aiyuk should be running. Those early, easy touches presumably give a player confidence and gets one of your best players the ball in his hands — which was one of Aiyuk’s best skills as a rookie and coming out of college.
Shanahan was asked if Aiyuk’s weight gain from the offseason where he got a little stronger had impacted Aiyuk’s speed or been problematic for him this year: “Possibly. I don’t think he quite looks to where he was at last year, so that could be a reason. That’s something that’s different. I’m sure it’s a few things, though, but he needs to get there.”
Aka, “I don’t know. Probably. Whatever is holding him back, he needs to figure it out.