More than just a hamstring injury contributed to San Francisco 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk seeing limited action in a 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday — he’s also getting more competition for playing time from Trent Sherfield, according to coach Kyle Shanahan.
“He’s got a better person behind him this year in training camp and with Aiyuk missing some time and how well Trent Sherfield played, and especially with Aiyuk missing some time heading into that game, it wasn’t a very tough decision (to play Sherfield more),” Shanahan said Monday, per the San Francisco Chronicle. “We were going to rotate them throughout the game. I think Trent ended up having 29 plays and I think Aiyuk had 25. So, that was about how we expected it to go. We wanted to split time like that.”
Still, it was a bit surprising for a first-round draft pick who had a promising rookie season in 2020 to go without a single target in the game. It certainly wasn’t as if the 49ers had trouble throwing the ball — Jimmy Garoppolo turned in what was a rock-solid performance (17 of 25, 314 yards).
As Shanahan noted, Sherfield made the most of his preseason action with 156 receiving yards on just five catches, including an 80-yard touchdown. On Sunday against the Lions, he notched just his second career TD catch on a cameo appearance from rookie quarterback Trey Lance.
Shanahan said he would discuss Aiyuk’s Week 1 playing time with the second-year receiver “sooner than later.” The playing split between Aiyuk and Sherfield gets its next look Sunday in Philadelphia. Last year against the Eagles, Aiyuk was quieted as a receiver but sprung a 38-yard rushing TD in a 25-20 loss.
“I thought Aiyuk would get a few more punt returns and I thought he’d get a few more targets, but when guys are rotating that much, 50/50, I don’t really ask much who’s in, I’m good with either one of them getting the ball,” Shanahan said.
If 49ers WR Deebo Samuel’s first game (nine catches, 189 yards) is any indication of his season to come, targets between Aiyuk and Sherfield will be all the more precious.
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