The San Francisco 49ers opened their 2021 season on Sunday with a thrilling 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions. It was one of the best games we watched in Week 1, and there were several noteworthy takeaways. A game that produces 872 yards of total offense and 74 points will always provide some talking points. One topic that’s picking up steam in the media right now is Brandon Aiyuk's usage... or lack thereof in Sunday’s win.
Aiyuk enters his sophomore campaign with lofty expectations after totaling 825 yards on just 66 touches in 12 games as a rookie in 2020. It’s safe to say Week 1 didn’t go as planned for the former first-round pick. He was not targeted on a single passing play while being out-snapped 27-26 by Trent Sherfield, a fourth-year undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt who caught five passes as a member of the Arizona Cardinals a year ago.
We’re here to tell you not to worry about Aiyuk. He’ll be just fine. In fact, he’ll be back to his play-making self before you know it. San Francisco’s offense is at their best when he’s on the field on a more consistent basis. It will only become more evident in the coming weeks. Aiyuk is too good and too athletic to not continue to thrive in Kyle Shanahan’s player-friendly system.
Shanahan was asked about Aiyuk during Wednesday’s press conference and laid out his thoughts on his second-year playmaker in a clear and concise manner.
“I’m happy with Aiyuk,” Shanahan said. “It’s nothing against him, I’m just also happy with Trent Sherfield. Aiyuk has been a little inconsistent because he’s been in and out with his injury and stuff. If he wants to be out there every single play, he has to be a lot better than the guy behind him.”
This sounds like the classic motivation tactic. There’s no denying that Aiyuk is still getting over an injury, and it’s hampered his ability to play at the level we all expect of him in recent weeks. Shanahan has said as much, and I assure you that Aiyuk knows he has to get healthy and play better.
Week 1 is often filled with overreactions and bold hot takes. I would advise you to not fall for the hoopla. To worry about Aiyuk following one game after what we saw him do to NFL defenses last season would be a fruitless exercise. Aiyuk is an elite playmaker with top-tier talent.
As Aiyuk continues to recover and get healthier as the weeks go by, look for him to still make a massive positive impact on the 49ers’ promising season.