Midway through the 2019 season, Emmanuel Sanders’ arrival lifted the 49ers’ receiving corps to another level.
The former Denver Bronco became an immediate mentor for the young wideouts and their production improved drastically. As a rookie, Deebo Samuel learned from Sanders and became a threat on the field and the team’s most productive wideout.
Mohamed Sanu could provide the same leadership for the 49ers. He was on the field for only 13 snaps in Week 2, but the former Atlanta Falcons receiver was seen on the broadcast coaching up Kendrick Bourne on the sidelines during the game.
Sanu participated in video meetings throughout the week but wasn’t cleared to be with the team in person until Friday. Even in those few short days, rookie Brandon Aiyuk shared that the veteran’s presence has been extremely valuable.
“He’s offered so much for the couple of days that we’ve been with him,” Aiyuk said. “He’s talked to us a lot. He talked about what I could expect out there in my first game.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan shared after the game that while Aiyuk’s NFL debut contained a few “rookie mistakes,” he was pleased with the rookie's performance. Through the ups and downs, the Arizona State product was glad to have Sanu on the sidelines as a resource and supporter.
“He’s just always there to pick you up from the bad plays, congratulate you for the good plays,” Aiyuk said. “He just gives you advice and keeps giving you information throughout practice and throughout a game.”
Aiyuk had the added challenge of an offseason without a rookie minicamp and OTAs. He also missed a substantial amount of training camp due to a hamstring injury. Prior to his injury, the rookie was heavily involved in team drills which helped prepare him for his first NFL game.
Aiyuk caught two of his three targets for 21 yards and was on the field for 72 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps on Sunday. Shanahan clearly sees promise in the rookie and will lean on him until Samuel’s potential return in Week 4. Sanu having the rookie’s back will help build his confidence.
“It’s been great to have him these last couple of days,” AIyuk said. “I’m going to continue to learn and get as much information as possible from him.”