Brandon Aiyuk will get to see one of his role models in person Thursday.
When the 49ers host the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium, the rookie will have a chance to meet Davante Adams. Aiyuk has been a fan of the Pro Bowl receiver’s play for a while and tries to emulate what he sees from the seven-year NFL vet.
“Davante Adams, when I was coming out of college, he was one of the main receivers that I watched,” Aiyuk said on Tuesday. “All the games from last season and what he does, and what he’s able to do at the line of scrimmage and with his route running.
“He’s actually my pro comparison, so I love watching Davante Adams. I try to take stuff out of his bag and put it in mine.”
No matter if it’s from watching Adams or other players around the NFL, Kyle Shanahan has been pleased with the progress that he has seen from the rookie. The coach knows that in the absence of both Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, the pressure is on Aiyuk to keep steadily improving in his first season.
“I’ve been very proud of Brandon these past few weeks,” Shanahan said. “Just like we did to Deebo his rookie year, we’re putting a little bit more pressure on him earlier than I would like to. You don’t like to put all that on a guy coming in, especially a guy who missed most of training camp and didn’t have an offseason.”
Maybe most importantly, on a short week, Shanahan sees a test ahead for Aiyuk as he will need his body to ready for a game just a few days after playing the Seattle Seahawks.
Nick Mullens sees the young receiver becoming a pro before his eyes. The two have already built a chemistry together after spending a bit of time together during training camp, as well as while Garoppolo was out in Week 2 and Week 3 with a high ankle sprain.
Mullens explained that Aiyuk now understands how much more important his effort level is in practice. Previously while at Arizona State, already knowing his opponent’s weaknesses and ability, Aiyuk admitted he would lessen the intensity of his preparation.
“He’s figuring out that the way you practice is the way that you play each and every single week,” Mullens said. “He’s balling out in games, but he’s balling out in practice too, and that just comes with rookie maturation. It’s really cool to watch."
Seeing the level of competition in the NFL is not the only eye-opener for rookies. Shanahan explained that the expectations can be overwhelming. Rookies, who think they might have had a great performance in a game, can be surprised at the criticism received from their coaches.
Shanahan is thankful that Aiyuk has been open to the demands from the coaching staff, while steadily progressing.
“I see a guy who is responding the right way and regardless of his stats, I see a guy who is getting better each week in these last few weeks.” Shanahan said. “We’re going to keep putting pressure on him and expect him to keep handling it well. We’re also going to put some pressure on some other guys that need to step as well.”