How Deebo Samuel's foot heals could make or break 49ers' 2020 season

How Deebo Samuel's foot heals could make or break 49ers' 2020 season

When Trent Taylor underwent surgery last August to repair a Jones fracture in his foot, the 49ers figured their slot receiver would be back for the bulk of the regular season.

It did not work out that way, as Taylor experienced repeated setbacks and ended up undergoing five surgeries.

The 49ers can only hope wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s return from the same injury goes a lot more smoothly.

Their season might depend on it.

Samuel on Tuesday sustained a broken fifth metatarsal, known as Jones fracture, the 49ers confirmed. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport first reported Samuel’s injury.

Samuel was scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday on his left foot.

The 49ers say they will have a better idea of Samuel’s timetable for return when the club reports to training camp in Santa Clara. Camp is scheduled to open in late-July.

Samuel wrote on social media that he expects to be back in 10 weeks.

Samuel sustained the injury during a workout with 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and some of his teammates Tuesday at Brentwood Academy in the Nashville area. The receiver tweeted Thursday that he'd be back in 10 weeks.

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The setback for Samuel and the 49ers is significant.

The 24-year-old was the team’s top wide receiver with 802 yards and three touchdowns on 81 receptions as a rookie. Samuel also gained 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He set the Super Bowl record for rushing yards from a wide receiver with 53 yards on three attempts.

Samuel enters his second season as the 49ers’ clear No. 1 wide receiver after veteran Emmanuel Sanders signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent.

Tight end George Kittle is the 49ers’ top pass-catcher. That does not change. But with Samuel’s status unclear for the early part of the season, it remains to be seen if another receiver can step up to take some of the heat off Kittle.

Samuel’s absence for any period of time would be a major blow to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Samuel is a threat on underneath, intermediate and deep routes. He is a tough runner with the ball in his hands. As his rookie season progressed, Samuel got better and better and better.

He could be expected to take his game to a higher level in 2020. Now, others might have to pick up the slack.

The 49ers invested a first-round draft pick in Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, a player with a similar skill set as Samuel.

Aside from Samuel, Kendrick Bourne is the 49ers’ top returning wide receiver.

Bourne caught 30 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns. The 49ers got little production from any other returning wide receiver, as Dante Pettis and Richie James combined for just 17 receptions for 274 yards and three touchdowns.

The 49ers are optimistic about getting significant production from Taylor and Jalen Hurd. Both players missed all of last season after their performances during the early portion of training camp showed that they could be major parts of the team’s offense.

Taylor underwent surgery for a Jones fracture before the 49ers’ first preseason game. Hurd appeared in just one preseason game before missing the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his back.

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The 49ers invested a seventh-round draft pick in Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings. They also signed veteran slot receiver Travis Benjamin.

San Francisco liked the group of wide receivers, mostly because it was easy to anticipate Samuel’s production taking a major leap.

Now, it is not as easy to be so optimistic about the collection of targets at wide receiver for Garoppolo.

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49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

Trent Willams has seen more of what Jerick McKinnon can do on the football field than just about anyone over the last two years.

And when the 49ers’ new left tackle was asked which teammate he was most eager to watch on the field, McKinnon was at the top of the list.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Jet,” Williams told the Bay Area media on a video call. “After two years, the way he’s looked in the offseason, I just can’t fathom him not being a breakout player.”

The 49ers were expecting so much from McKinnon after they signed him on the first day of free agency in 2018, coach Kyle Shanahan had planned to unveil an offense in the regular season that would focus heavily on the running back’s ability as a route-runner and pass-catcher.

But McKinnon sustained a torn ACL one week before the regular-season opener. When the graft from that surgery did not fill in properly, McKinnon lost a second consecutive season. McKinnon accepted a greatly reduced salary this year to remain with the 49ers.

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Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, saw plenty of McKinnon’s skills during the offseason as he, McKinnon and Deebo Samuel were among those who worked out with star running back Adrian Peterson.

Samuel described those training sessions as the “one of the hardest workouts I’ve been doing since I’ve been playing football.”

McKinnon has been cleared to take part in 49ers practices, which begin Aug. 15. The 49ers’ first padded practice is scheduled for Aug. 17.

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McKinnon figures to be a big part of the 49ers’ offense as a third-down back. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo recently said he is looking forward to seeing McKinnon take what he’s showing in workouts onto the field during the regular season.

“Even just throwing routes on air this offseason, he runs them differently than most running backs and he has a feel that's like a receiver, but he feels space like a quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “It's very unique and I'm excited to get him back, man. It's been a while.”

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Williams ticked off other areas of the 49ers that have him excited, too. He spoke about tight end George Kittle and every level of the defense, including the “freakish” defensive line.

“I just want to get this team to a game,” said Williams, whom the 49ers acquired in an April trade with Washington. “It feels like college again, when we had three of the top four picks in the draft. I haven’t had this feeling since then.”

In 2013, Williams was one of three Oklahoma players to be chosen in the top four of the NFL draft. He went No. 4 to Washington, following quarterback Sam Bradford (No. 1 to the St. Louis Rams) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (No. 3 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

49ers' Nick Bosa says benefits of healthy offseason will show on field

49ers' Nick Bosa says benefits of healthy offseason will show on field

Nick Bosa was voted the best rookie in the NFL last season.

The 49ers’ defensive end is approaching the 2020 season with even-bigger expectations for himself.

“I’ve got some pretty concrete things that I’ve been focusing on,” said Bosa, the consensus NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and chosen as the overall Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Bosa registered nine sacks during the regular season with a total of 80 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. He added four more sacks in three postseason games.

Bosa came to the NFL with a reputation as an advanced technician. This season, he believes he will be better prepared mentally to become more of a down-to-down force.

”Last year, I didn’t really know what was going to work and what wasn’t and what was my go-to,” he said. “So just coming into games with a better plan of not wasting any time out there because you only get so many opportunities and you want to get those big numbers and help your team as best as you can and get the ball out. You have to come in with a plan and not waste any rushes.”

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Bosa said he has spent the past six months working on a couple of new pass-rush moves. Even before the draft last year, Bosa spoke about a cross-chop move that Aaron Donald has perfected on his way to becoming arguably the league’s best defensive player. Bosa has also been considering adding a spin move to his arsenal.

Bosa said he also has worked on making better use of his hands to ward off pass-blockers and get to the quarterback more effectively.

“I win a lot at the top of my rush, but a lot of the times I get washed by the quarterback or I don’t pose enough space and finish the plays, so that’s probably been the biggest emphasis for me,” he said. “And I’ve been working that in walk-throughs and drills all (off)-season.”

Bosa faced a number of obstacles as he prepared for his rookie season a year ago. He underwent core-muscle surgery that ended his final season at Ohio State after three games. Bosa spent months rehabbing and traveling the country to meet with teams during the pre-draft process.

After the 49ers selected Bosa with the No. 2 overall draft pick, a hamstring strain during the offseason program sidelined him until training camp. Then, early in camp he sustained a high-ankle sprain that kept him out until Week 1 of the regular season.

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While the 49ers and the rest of the NFL canceled on-field work this spring, Bosa trained daily with his brother, Joey, and he believes he enters his second season much better prepared than a year ago.

“I think I’ve gotten all of the benefits and I’m feeling it out here in these workouts, in these runs we’re doing,” he said. “I feel like I’m, by far, in the best shape that I’ve ever been. I don’t look much different because we don’t train to body-build. We train to play football, and I think it’ll show.”