Sunday’s season opener win was a strange one for the 49ers. In addition to nearly blowing a 41-17 lead, they also lost two key players to injuries: Jason Verrett for the season with a torn ACL and Raheem Mostert for at least eight weeks with a knee issue.
There were also some bizarre tweaks to the depth chart. Trey Sermon, the third-round rookie who was expected to be second in line behind Mostert, was a healthy scratch, the team electing instead to go with sixth-rounder Elijah Mitchell.
But the most shocking development was at the receiver position, where Brandon Aiyuk was out snapped by Trent Sherfield, and not targeted once when he did see the field.
So what’s going on there? According to Matt Maiocco, it’s not a simple as the 49ers slowly working him back from a hamstring injury as Kyle Shanahan claims. Maiocco believes the 49ers were disappointed by what Aiyuk showed in training camp, and are looking for him to step up.
“Brandon Aiyuk kind of had a disappointing training camp,” Maiocco said. “Being a pro is knowing how to take care of business, how to get prepared, how to get your body right, how to do everything away from the field or in the training room or whatever that gets you prepared to play your best football. And that is the area where the 49ers would like to see Brandon Aiyuk kind of step it up.
“It’s something Kyle Shanahan was asked about today and he said there’s no issue, just the injury, but yeah, there’s something going on there with Brandon Aiyuk. I’m high on Brandon Aiyuk. The first couple practices of training camp he looked awesome. I thought, ‘wow, this is going to be a great combination of Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.’ After that, Aiyuk kind of disappeared a little bit and Trent Sherfield stepped up. The Brandon Aiyuk I saw last year, I don’t care how good Trent Sherfield is performing, he’s not as good as that Brandon Aiyuk.”
Aiyuk was a breakout rookie last season, catching 60 passes for 748 yards in just 12 games. Aiyuk was expected to make the leap in 2021, but it looks like he still has a way to go.
“That’s something where he’s kind of got to figure this out, get healthy, and kind of show the flashes he showed last season. They expect him to be a good football player and they’re going to have to start seeing it more than what he’s shown it.”
Listen to the full interview below.