Shanahan explains why Sherfield didn't play much vs. Packers

Trent Sherfield

The 49ers' wide receiver rotation remains one of the big mysteries through three weeks of the 2021 NFL season. 

In Week 1, training camp standout Trent Sherfield was San Francisco's No. 2 receiver behind Deebo Samuel, sparking plenty of debate as to whether second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk was in the "doghouse." 

After seeing an uptick in snaps and targets in Week 2, Aiyuk essentially was neck-and-neck with Sherfield. Fast-forward to Week 3 and Aiyuk (six targets, four receptions, 37 yards, 1 TD) had his busiest game yet, while Sherfield was relegated to only special-teams duties. 

After having made such a great impression on Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers' coaching staff, why was Sherfield only on the field for two snaps, without a single target? 

"I didn't think we had that many long drives," Shanahan said Monday following the 30-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers. "And when we did, we went with single receiver, sometimes being in 22 and 13 personnel."

If you're not familiar with offensive personnel packages, 22 personnel consists of two running backs, two tight ends and one wide receiver. 13 personnel consists of one running back, three tight ends and one wide receiver. 

Simply put, the 49ers were in a lot of single-receiver formations, which obviously doesn't present many opportunities for other receivers. That single receiver, and the one the 49ers should be throwing to the most? Deebo Samuel, of course. 


"I thought (Sherfield) would play a lot more," Shanahan added. "I tell guys what to do before the game, but I don't keep up with the rotation. I wanted to make sure to keep Aiyuk fresh. And [wide receivers coach] Wes [Welker] thought Aiyuk was fresh enough without being out there on too many long drives so he didn't put Trent in as much. And he did a hell of a job on special teams for us too."

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Sherfield burst onto the scene after a very strong training camp and impressive preseason campaign. Having caught a touchdown pass from rookie QB Trey Lance in Week 1, Sherfield has been used less and less the previous two games. 

Having leapfrogged Aiyuk to begin the season, it seems as if Sherfield is falling back down the depth chart. 

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