Crocker: Deebo Samuel must answer the call for WR-barren 49ers

“With the 36th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the 49ers select Deebo Samuel...” That might’ve been the worst kept secret in the draft, outside of the 49ers nabbing fellow rookie Nick Bosa at pick No. 2. Deebo was taken to be a do-it-all receiver. At the University of South Carolina, he not only caught passes from the wide receiver position, but carried the ball like a running back on jet sweeps, and returned kickoffs for touchdowns.

Nine weeks through the 2019 season, Deebo has caught 30 passes for 339 yards – with his biggest game coming Week 8 (8-112-0 in the absence of both tight end George Kittle and recently acquired veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders).

It hasn’t been all roses with Deebo.

He has had a case of the dropsies, which happens a lot with receivers during their rookie seasons. Deebo has been on record saying he didn’t start grasping the playbook until Week 1, and at times during the preseason he thought he’d never get the playbook down. Not knowing the playbook makes you think while playing. Thinking while playing leads to uncharacteristic drops. Five to be exact.

That’s very unlike Deebo, who possesses strong hands and is fearless catching the ball in traffic. The 49ers are at a pivotal point on the schedule where after a home game against the Cardinals, they take on the Packers, Ravens and Saints, who have a combined six losses on the season. In a season where the 49ers have been extremely banged up across the roster, they’ve needed young players to step up.

When Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley went down, Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill stepped in and played well. Third-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon missed time and Emmanuel Moseley stepped in (and now many fans think Moseley should keep the starting spot). Now with Kittle and Sanders banged up, Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel, it’s time for you to step up and be the guy. At least for the next few weeks. In the Week 9 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, Patrick Peterson shadowed Sanders and was torched to the tune of 7 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Deebo affects the game at all levels, more so than any other 49ers target not named Kittle. From slants, to jets sweeps, deep over routes, and as we saw against Seattle, he can stretch the defense if Jimmy Garoppolo can throw it far enough.

The 49ers should work to get Deebo the ball early and often against the Cardinals. The more touches he gets, the more the young receiver’s confidence will grow. If Sanders can’t go, Deebo Samuel will be the focal point for the Cardinals defense. Every young receiver has to grow up sometime and Deebo’s time is now.

Media courtesy AP Images

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