Thursday, September 23, 2021

49ers in West Virginia: Why Ayuk is splitting with Sherfield, plus Dibo’s climb and RB rotation

WHITE SULFUR SPRINGS, W VA – Deebo Samuel caught a hard-thrower pass from the receiver’s warm-up drill, and Brandon Ayuk dropped one to end it.

It symbolically shows how different Samuel and Ayuk have started this 49ers season.

Samuel had 189 yards and one touchdown in Sunday’s season-opening win in Detroit, and it doesn’t even do justice to how much he’s matured into such an offensive leader.

“His leadership has come a long way,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said Wednesday before practice at The Greenbrier Resort. “The way he leads that group, he’s usually the first one to go. He’s ready to roll in and set the tone for those guys.

“I give him a lot of credit for that. I don’t think it came naturally to him, especially as a rookie (in 2019), when you learn as you go. He’s really embraced that role this year And it has really helped us.”

Ayuk, meanwhile, has moved into a job-sharing role with newcomer Trent Sherfield from the 2020 rookie phenom. Ayuk may benefit more than anyone in these practices at The Greenbrier, nestled in the mountains of West Virginia.

“Ayuk still doesn’t have a chance to get that position and rotate much,” coach Kyle Shanahan said ahead of Wednesday’s practice. “Trent just doesn’t make it that easy. So these three days in practice are very important, how do we balance our game plan and how do we balance our routes.”

How did Ayuk fall out of favor? In a word: inconsistency, from his limited availability with a hamstring injury at the end of camp to other factors such as crunchiness on the field in drops and routes.

“I know it all sounds like we’re punishing Ayuk because Trent got reps with him or we swung those guys,” Shanahan said. “I’m not going to sit here and say that he has to ‘ab-c’ to get back out there. … If he wants to be out in every single game, he has to be a lot better than the guy behind him.” needed. ”

Ayuk was not targeted against the Lions as he played 26 snaps for Sherfield’s 27. Although he is last in line in one warmup drill, he is higher in the pecking order in others.

Ayuk has not been made available for comment since training camp; NFL locker rooms are closed to media due to COVID protocols, and player access is permitted (or not) through the 49ers’ communications staff.

Added Shanahan: “I’m happy with Ayuk. This is nothing against Ayuk. I am also happy with Trent. I think both of them can continue to do better.”

Samuel’s ascension is noticeable beyond the stat sheet. In Wednesday’s practice, for example, he and George Kittel pass catches in the quarterback warmup; Samuel had previously replaced team captain Raheem Mostart, who opted for knee surgery at the end of the season. A few minutes after the quarterback warmup, Samuel was leading all receivers through the position warmup.

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“On the field, Dibo has been a dog, a player for us ever since he came in as a rookie. Not much has changed in that aspect,” Garoppolo said.

running back depth

Shanahan summed up the 49ers’ annual crash on running back this way: “One by one, we’re down one.”

After further evaluation of Mostart’s options, Shanahan said, “Raheem Mostart’s decision to undergo season-ending surgery on chipped knee cartilage “wasn’t surprising (and) understandable to me.”

Left in their wake have been Elijah Mitchell and Trey Cerman, and another year ago Jamie Michael Hasty, who Garoppolo noted, will be tested with his communication skills if the Philadelphia crowd is rowdy and loud Sunday.

“Rahim is a captain and one of the best players in our team, which definitely hurts,” Shanahan said. “But as you can see the way Elijah stepped (104 yards), he did one hell of a job. I’m very confident in his haste to do that, and the same is with Trey, who is now Get your chance, which is most likely to arise.”

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The 49ers welcomed a new veteran to the practice team: Kerry Johnson, formerly of the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals. Johnson wore the number 48 in practice, but that could change if the active roster is increased, which is unlikely this week.

Greenbrier setting

The exercise kicked off with temperatures in the 80s to partly cloudy, but 65 percent humidity made it even more swell. The Greenbrier Resort’s luxury accommodations include two soccer fields in the swanky Sports Performance Center. It’s where the 49ers will practice this week before flying to Philadelphia on Saturday – replicating last year’s itinerary with the Greenbrier layover between victories at the New York Jets and Giants.

“The (old-fashioned flower print) wallpaper is rough in our rooms, but everything else is nice,” Shanahan said.

A local reporter tested positive for COVID and was turned away from the practice. All media must be vaccinated to participate in the practices. The 49ers haven’t had a player on the COVID reserve list since training camp began two months ago.

49ers in West Virginia: Why Ayuk is splitting with Sherfield, plus Dibo's climb and RB rotation
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