The 49ers — like all NFL teams — use GPS information as a gauge of how well players work and prepare on the practice field.
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s practices have apparently been better in recent weeks, which might explain why his performance Sunday against the Chicago Bears looked different than his first six games of the season.
Coaches and teammates spoke recently about how much better Aiyuk is practicing. Coach Kyle Shanahan might have provided some clues Monday to the reasons behind Aiyuk’s struggles to start the season.
Shanahan explained what he means when he pointed out that Aiyuk has been better prepared for success coming out of the bye week.
“And it has to do with just how you do everything,” Shanahan said. “How you do individual and how you run your routes, how you compete in one-on-one, how you do on the plays that we just put in or trying to script in from a mental standpoint. Whether you do them right?
“How fast you are? We have the GPS on all these guys and track how hard they run each day. Things like that. And just being consistent with it. And Aiyuk’s strung together a number of really good weeks.”
Aiyuk was targeted a season-high seven times on Sunday, not including a successful two-point conversion reception from Jimmy Garoppolo that gave the 49ers a 23-16 lead over the Bears early in the fourth quarter.
Aiyuk caught four passes for 45 yards, and also had a key block on Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson that helped spring Deebo Samuel for the game-changing 83-yard reception on a third-and-20 play in the third quarter.
Shanahan remarked that he likes the change he has seen from Aiyuk on the practice field, and Aiyuk and his teammates have noticed it, too.
“And that's what's been encouraging about him,” Shanahan said. “And just last week, doing just what he had done the previous few weeks, I thought he took his game to another level.
“And not just me, but I thought the players felt it. I thought he felt it.”
Aiyuk talked about his mindset after the 49ers’ 33-22 victory over the Bears, but he declined to specify why he has struggled to produce catches and yardage this season.
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As a rookie, Aiyuk caught 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. Even with his best game of the season on Sunday, he has just 13 receptions for 141 yards and one touchdown through seven games.
“It could be a bunch of different reasons,” Aiyuk said. “All I know is I can control what I can, control the controllables.
“Usually, things trend in the right direction when I do that. I don’t get caught up in all that. We got a win today, and that really doesn’t matter at all to me, as long as we see W’s.”