WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va -- The door for Brandon Aiyuk to increase his role in the 49ers' offense is wide open.
After splitting reps with Trent Sherfield in the club’s 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions, Kyle Shanahan detailed what needs to be seen from the second-year wide receiver. Aiyuk, who was limited by a hamstring injury in training camp, needs to be more consistent.
That starts with practice.
“Aiyuk has been a little inconsistent because he’s been in and out with his injury,” Shanahan said. “He’s got a chance to make that spot up and not rotate as much, Trent just doesn’t make that very easy.
“These three days are important at practice, how we balance out our gameplan, how we balance out our routes. I’m happy with Aiyuk. It’s nothing against Aiyuk, it’s just having Trent too. I think both are going to continue to get better.”
Shanahan has had experienced players not reaching their potential before, but the head coach said this is not a case of the Arizona State product being less focused. Aiyuk suffered from not having OTAs in 2020, as well as a very brief training camp his rookie season.
Then, the reps that Aiyuk lost while being out with a hamstring injury this offseason were valuable. Sherfield took advantage of his opportunity and quickly built chemistry with both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance.
Shanahan also warned to not be fooled by Sherfield’s undrafted free-agent pedigree. The former Arizona Cardinal has been a consummate professional since being signed to the 49ers. Sherfield, who was once limited to contributing on special teams, has become a viable part of the 49ers' offense.
“I know this is all like we are punishing Aiyuk or something because Trent got even reps with him, or we rotated those guys,” Shanahan said. “I’m not going to sit here and say he has to do A, B and C to get back out there.
“It’s more when you’re practicing the last month and one guy has been there every day and the quarterback has a lot of confidence in him, I know I do. If he wants to be out there every single play, he’s got to be a lot better than the guy behind him. “