49ers

49ers' dependence on Deebo does not faze OC McDaniel

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The 49ers' offense has relied heavily on Deebo Samuel so far this season, as the wideout's 819 receiving yards are nearly 600 more than his next-closest teammate (George Kittle, 227). Brandon Aiyuk got off to a slow start and seems to have found his stride in the last few weeks, while Kittle could make his return to the field Sunday when the 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals.

The 49ers recognize the reliance on Deebo could make the offense easier to prepare for, and Aiyuk and Kittle's increased roles likely will make that reliance less necessary. Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel understands that a more balanced attack is beneficial, but also knows his job is to try and produce points regardless of how he does it.

"You're at your healthiest as an offense when you can equally distribute the ball," McDaniel told reporters Thursday. "And I think all the players understand that as well. Because when one person's getting the ball, if there's a threat of them getting the ball, there's more space for the other guy. So, I think that's always the goal for us, but then at the same time, you're trying to win football games and get the ball into really good players' hands.

"In an ideal world we'll distribute the ball as best we can everywhere, but beggars can't be choosers. We're just trying to move the ball, score points and win games."

Aiyuk said he "had some words" with coach Kyle Shanahan during the 49ers' bye week, and that he is feeling better about the rest of the season. McDaniel also spoke about the improvement he has seen from Aiyuk since the 2021 campaign began.

 

“He's looked like the player that we envisioned when we drafted him,” McDaniel said. “In terms of he's got a lot of physical tools, but he also has a mindset and he's a young guy that's finally starting to understand what it means to be a pro and approach every practice like, ‘Hey I'm determining the game on Wednesday. I'm winning the game on Thursday.’ "

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The 49ers have shown a willingness to get the ball into Deebo's hands consistently since he was drafted in 2019, and he has solidified himself as one of the NFL's top threats in the open field with his remarkable yards after catch numbers.

Ideally, Jimmy Garoppolo will spread the ball around more going forward, but if Samuel is the best option and gets open more often than his fellow pass-catchers, he likely will continue to see a lion's share of the targets.

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