Shanahan will set up 49ers’ receivers to thrive, Irvin says


The 49ers' wide receivers are among the most unproven in the NFL.

The five wideouts on the 53-man roster with pro experience have combined for fewer than 300 career catches, 3,500 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns. Only Kendrick Bourne has played more than 30 career games, and Deebo Samuel is the lone receiver with a 50-catch season on his résumé.

Neither Samuel nor rookie Brandon Aiyuk practiced Monday ahead of Sunday's regular-season opener with the Arizona Cardinals, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would be throwing to a group light on experience even if both receivers play. NFL Media analyst Michael Irvin is nonetheless confident the 49ers' wideouts are set up for success.

"Kyle Shanahan is a brilliant, brilliant head coach," the Hall of Fame wide receiver said Monday on 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky." "He will only put guys in situations that he knows they'll feel comfortable putting them in early. He's brilliant at that, so he'll spot those guys and give them those opportunities."

Irvin admitted that rookies, such as Aiyuk, and returning receivers who didn't play much (if at all) last season, like Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor, could face a learning curve running Shanahan's offense at game speed. A lack of preseason games, canceled due to precautions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, makes the challenge even steeper.

Still, the 49ers will have consistency under center and on the headset with Garoppolo and Shanahan returning. Irvin believes that continuity will greatly benefit the 49ers heading into an unprecedented season.


"I do think it's a huge advantage for teams that are coming back to a system that they already know," Irvin continued, "as opposed to some teams that are coming back to new head coaches and trying to install a new system, or situations like that, coming off this COVID offseason. That's going to be a difficult, difficult situation."

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The 49ers' receiving situation sits in stark contrast to their Week 1 opponents. The Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason, and 37-year-old Larry Fitzgerald had more receiving yards (804) last season than every wideout currently on the Niners' 53-man roster.

But with Shanahan at the helm, Irvin thinks the 49ers' receivers are well-equipped to hold their own.