INGLEWOOD -- Getting Deebo Samuel back on the field Sunday in Los Angeles helped kept the 49ers’ hopes and dreams alive.
The second-year receiver returned for the first time since injuring his hamstring in Week 7 and had a career day against the Rams. Samuel caught a personal record 11 passes of his 13 targets for 133 yards in the 49ers’ 23-20 win.
Sunday marked Samuel’s first 100-yard game of the season and the fourth of his career. The sophomore receiver re-established his bruising ways, gaining 136 yards after the catch -- three yards more than his total for the day.
Needless to say, coach Kyle Shanahan was pleased to have Samuel back in the lineup again.
“I can’t tell you how good Deebo Samuel was today,” Shanahan said Sunday after the game. “Some of those plays that he made in the first half, I mean the big run that he had on the same run that he had last time. Just the physicality he plays with, being able to up them.”
While the 49ers head coach praised his wide receiver in front of the media, Shanahan admitted he’s more subdued when talking to his players face-to-face. Shanahan is known for being a perfectionist and having high expectations for his players.
“I always mess with them because I’m a very soft compliment type of guy,” Shanahan said. “You’ve never arrived, you always get better. So Deebo has got a lot to work on. But he’s one of the best football players I’ve been around. It doesn’t matter how good it is or how good it looks, he’s going to get it done.”
Samuel understands the mindset of his coach. The pass-catcher improved markedly in the second half of his rookie season, finishing 2019 as the top wide receiver on the roster.
Samuel’s second season, however, has been hampered by injury. The wideout suffered a Jones fracture during the offseason which kept him out of the first three contests of the season. Later, a hamstring injury kept the receiver out for an additional three games.
In Los Angeles, Samuel made an immediate impact upon his return and imposed his physical will on Rams defenders.
“The way he blocked, the way he ran, the other time we got down there got a field goal, I think in the third quarter, it started off with a six-yard throw or Deebo ran through some people,” Shanahan said. “I love that guy. But he’s got to still keep getting a lot better at everything else.”
After the game, Samuel gave credit to the 49ers' training staff for the rehabilitation program they planned. He explained that they put him in game-like situations in order to make sure his body was ready to return.
As far as Shanahan’s lack of effusive compliments, Samuel would prefer his coach to be honest, as it keeps the pressure on him to improve.
“I think it’s just getting better and better as time goes on,” Samuel said. “It’s all a trust thing, it all starts from trust, how I am with the ball and Kyle believing in the things that he drafted me for, just going out there and doing that.
“Today he just said, ‘I’m proud of you, but you know we still have things to work on.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, for sure.’”