San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are at the forefront of the team’s new-look receiver corps.
We’re all football junkies. It’s been roughly seven months since the Super Bowl and three months removed from the draft and fans need a taste. Badly. This addiction causes wild overreactions and definitive takes after training camp practices and preseason games. Rookies are in the Hall of Fame, everyone is in the best shape of their lives and this is the season the Patriots fall off. Standard.
With all this in mind, you can glean some information from preseason games. The 49ers opener against the Cowboys last week was sloppy and played mostly by guys who probably won’t make their respective teams. Despite penalties and dropped passes there was a take-home for 49ers fans. In the words of the late, great Notorious B.I.G. “things done changed.” Good thing because they needed to. This new class of 49ers want smoke.
The Shanahan/ Lynch era has been underwhelming. The injured list is often stuffed with key contributors from a roster that simply isn’t deep enough. The culture is great. Everyone loves each other but love isn’t winning games. This team is in desperate need of sledgehammers to crack the losing cast that’s beginning to form around this regime.
This year’s draft class gives reason for hope, however. This hope comes from the unlikeliest of places: the wide receiver room. Rookies receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are bad dudes.
The perception of this 49ers offense is they’re soft. While talented, the receiving corps and backfield are undersized and banged up far too often. The interior offensive line is either ineffective or injured. None of that bodes well for a quarterback with an injury history. Enter these two rugged rookies who are looking to change the conversation.
Deebo Samuel by his very name is a bully. With a body type reminiscent of former 49er Anquan Boldin, Samuel is built for contact. He’s fearless over the middle and plays tough in traffic. His preseason debut was encouraging. He led the 49ers in receiving and added 14 rushing yards. He wrestled a pass away from a beaten defender on an underthrown long ball from C.J. Beathard. Toughness. Toughness. Toughness.
Third-round pick Jalen Hurd, the former Baylor Bear, came into camp looking to set a tone. He’s accounted for two fights already in camp (at least one came from his excessive blocking; keep Jimmie Ward away from this guy) and is making his presence felt. Against the Cowboys, Hurd took a crossing route and squared up two Cowboys defenders to score his first touchdown. Later in the game, Hurd skied over his defender for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. His second of the evening. Two plays showing traits that are sorely missing from this offense.
Both players show tenacity and swagger that can potentially help sculpt this team’s new identity. The mistake will be keeping these potential playmakers on the sidelines. This is still a team building. Time shouldn’t be wasted on guys who either won’t be in the long-term plans or aren’t as talented but may be more ready. Here’s to hoping this isn’t a training camp overreaction.