In 2021 Deebo Samuel had a breakout campaign that got 49ers fans excited for what the future would hold for the former second-round pick.
Samuel had posted 1,405 yards and six touchdowns through the air, while also becoming a force to be reckoned with in the rushing game. In 2021, he rushed for 365 yards and eight touchdowns. Becoming a threat to opposing defenses through both the air and ground, Samuel’s position has earned a new name referred to as “wide back”
Throughout the offseason, reports began to surface that Samuel was not happy with his new “wide back” role and his relationship with the 49ers front office seemed to falter. For months it was uncertain if Samuel and the front office would reach a contract extension or if it was time for both parties to go separate ways
Deebo doesn’t want to be a Wide back anymore 👀 pic.twitter.com/29scIY5sfp — PFF (@PFF) April 20, 2022
On July 31, 2022, the controversy over what would happen with Deebo Samuel ended as he signed a 3-year extension worth $71,550,000 with the 49ers. Shortly after, Samuel stated that all reports of his unhappiness with his “wide back” role were false.
“I don’t mind doing whatever it takes for this team to win,” Samuel told reporters in his first interview after inking his extension.
“That’s false.” Deebo Samuel on the notion that not wanting to be a “wide back” was part of contract stalemate/trade request. “I don’t mind doing whatever it takes for this team to win.” 😤 pic.twitter.com/xb6ScRx1f1 — 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) August 2, 2022
Even after Samuel’s statement, many 49ers fans were still worried about what the now high-paid star wide receiver’s role would be within the offense. After sitting out for almost all of preseason, fans were forced to wait until the regular season to find out if his role had changed.
In Week One against the Bears, Deebo Samuel backed up his statement that he was truthful about doing whatever it takes for the team by showing that he is still productive at the “wide back” position
Deebo’s Production in the Passing Game
During Sunday’s loss to the Bears, the 49ers struggled to get the passing game going. Sophomore quarterback Trey Lance completed 13 of his 28 pass attempts for 164 yards while adding an interception thrown to Eddie Jackson in the fourth quarter.
Although the passing game struggled, it was apparent that getting Samuel involved was part of the game plan. On Sunday, he only had 2 catches for 14 yards but was targeted a total of eight times. Kyle Shanahan understands the type of playmaker that Deebo will continue to be for his offense’s passing game if the ball gets in his hands and that is why he was targeted more than any other 49er.
Deebo’s Impact in the Rushing Game
Early into the second quarter, running back Elijah Mitchell was seen being taken into the locker room due to a knee injury. When Mitchell had left the game he had produced a productive stat line of 41-rushing yards on six carries. With the 49er’s lead running back being taken out of the game so early, Samuel was given the responsibility to help the team in the running game
Even before Mitchell had suffered his injury, Shanahan still made an effort of giving Deebo carries. His first carry was a four-yard run that resulted in a fumble. After a tough first touch for the recently paid star, Samuel showed 49er fans why he was paid.
In the second quarter, Deebo ran in a six-yard touchdown for the 49ers’ first score of the season and to add yet another rushing touchdown to his resume. Samuel later showed his explosiveness by taking a carry 27 yards to attempt a scoring drive as time was running out in the first half. Deebo finished out the game with 52-rushing yards and a touchdown on eight carries
Predictions Going Forward
With Elijah Mitchell just being announced to miss two months, we can expect Deebo to be an even more important part of the rushing game for the weeks to come. His playmaking out of the backfield is too explosive to push aside even when Mitchell is healthy again.
His receiving stats will improve as his young quarterback improves throughout the season. Heavy rains slowed down the passing game and with a home game in sight for Week Two we should see an improvement.