Shanahan hints at Aiyuk's conditioning as possible factor in regression

By , Audacy Sports

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has once again addressed the curious situation of wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The second-year wideout's sophomore slump has puzzled fans all season, and Shanahan to this point has offered little clarity, previously denying that Aiyuk was in his "doghouse" and blaming "fantasy football" for the intense scrutiny on Aiyuk's usage.

Live On-Air
95 7 The Game
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

The 2020 first-round draft pick was a surprise breakout star as a rookie after stepping in for the injured Deebo Samuel early in the season, but Shanahan has indicated that Samuel has just been flat-out better in 2021.

This year, the receivers' roles have been reversed, with Samuel starring as the featured target, and Aiyuk struggling to get things going after his training camp was marred by a hamstring injury.

But apparently there could be more to it.

On Wednesday, Shanahan was asked whether Aiyuk's reported beefing up in the offseason has cost him a step of speed or agility, and the coach seemed to acknowledge that it might be one of several factors.

"Possibly," Shanahan said, according to 49ers Webzone. "I don't think he quite looks to where he was at last year, so that could be a reason. That's something that's different. I'm sure it's a few things, though, but he needs to get there."

There doesn't seem to be a specific cause for Aiyuk's regression, but taken in the full context of his injury, his possible weight gain, Samuel's rise -- and all in a middling run-heavy offense -- it appears to be the perfect storm.

Shanahan, now in his fifth year as Niners head coach, reiterated that Aiyuk just doesn't look quite right compared to the player he was a season ago.

"I just want Aiyuk to keep getting better," Shanahan said. "I don't think he's quite back to where he was last year, and I expected him to be better this year than last year. I think he's still trying to get back to that point, which I think he's closer to that point right now than he was a couple of weeks ago because he has been working hard and trying to get there. If he keeps doing that, I believe things will get better for him and us."

Aiyuk does in fact seem to be regaining the trust of his coaches, seeing more snaps with each passing week.

However, hopes that he might emerge from the Week 6 bye fully reintegrated as a featured piece of the offense were dashed when he was seldom targeted in the Week 7 loss to the Colts. So, for now, Samuel seems to remain the go-to guy among the wide receiver corps.

But there's a lot of season left to play, and Aiyuk has already proven he can perform at a high level. We wouldn't bet against him putting together a strong second half.

LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign Up and Follow Audacy Sports
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram