The addition of veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will provide 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan with infinite options, according to a member of last season’s coaching staff.
“It’s going to allow for Kyle Shanahan to open up the playbook a little more,” said Nick Ferguson, a former NFL safety and an assistant on the 49ers staff last season.
Ferguson, who works in Denver as a host on 104.3 The Fan, spoke on The 49ers Insider Podcast about the impact of the 49ers’ trade on Tuesday to acquire Sanders, a 10-year NFL veteran.
“He can take the top off defenses,” Ferguson said. “Also, his route-running, crisp route-running. If you want to put him outside the numbers, he can do that. If you want to put him in the slot, he can do that, as well. If you want to run gimmick plays, jet sweeps, kind of like what Andy Reid does with Tyreek Hill, he can definitely do that.
“So he gives them another element to their offense that they haven’t had.”
Sanders, 32, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion, comes to the 49ers along with a fifth-round pick from the Denver Broncos in exchange for the 49ers’ third- and fourth-round selections in the 2020 NFL Draft. Sanders is signed only through this current season.
Sanders provides an immediate upgrade at wide receiver for the 49ers. Tight end George Kittle is far-and-away Jimmy Garoppolo’s most reliable target in the passing game.
Rookie Deebo Samuel, who missed Sunday’s game at Washington with a groin strain, leads the 49ers wideouts with 15 catches for 168 yards. Marquise Goodwin has 11 catches for 181 yards, while Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis have nine catches apiece for 139 and 83 yards, respectively. Richie James has five receptions for 108 yards.
“No disrespect to guys they have on the team, like Pettis, Bourne, Richie James, no disrespect, but now you have a savvy veteran coming in and you can say he’s 32, coming off some injuries,” Ferguson said. “All I know is he’s a gamer and the problem here in Denver was they were not getting him the ball. I don’t understand how do you not feature a guy like Emmanuel Sanders in your offense?”
Sanders sustained a torn left Achilles last December. He also had offseason surgery on his right ankle. While he made a strong return from those surgeries, he was not satisfied with his role in Rich Scangarello’s offense. Scangarello, the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, is Denver's offensive coordinator under first-year head coach Vic Fangio.
Sanders caught 30 of the 44 passes thrown his way for 367 yards and two touchdowns for the Broncos (2-5). He joins an undefeated 49ers team that ranks No. 2 in the NFL in rushing. Ferguson said he believes Sanders’ presence will benefit Garoppolo, Kittle and the team’s ground attack.
“It’s going to open up things for Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman in the run game because with Emmanuel Sanders, his route-running, and his ability to catch the deep ball, it’s just going to open run lanes and passing lanes,” Ferguson said.