San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season, but he was held without a target en route to playing just 47 percent of the snaps in his team's 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions last Sunday, per Pro Football Reference.
On Friday, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that Aiyuk is not in the "doghouse" despite the second-year wideout's lack of action, per KNBR's Brian Murphy:
Brian Murphy @knbrmurph
Kyle on Aiyuk: "No, it's not a doghouse. He would've got his spot completely back; tweaked his hamstring before 3rd preseason game. Planned on rotating him; we did. and you get a big reaction to that; It's not personal...things are a bigger deal b/c of fantasy football (laughs)"
Aiyuk amassed 60 catches, 748 yards and five receiving touchdowns in 12 games last year. He also added 77 rushing yards and two more scores.
On Sunday, Deebo Samuel was San Francisco's clear No. 1 wideout, catching nine passes (12 targets) for 181 yards and a touchdown.
Surprisingly, it was Trent Sherfield who saw the second-most snaps at the position. Per Pro Football Reference, he was on the field 49 percent of the time. Aiyuk was third, and then Mohamed Sanu (36 percent) and Jauan Jennings (11 percent) rounded out the wideout group.
Sherfield and Sanu didn't see many opportunities themselves with their four combined targets, although the former wideout turned his three targets into two catches for 23 yards and a score.
Sherfield's ascendance has come in part because Aiyuk dealt with a preseason injury that cost him some practice time, as David Lombardi of The Athletic noted:
David Lombardi @LombardiHimself
Shanahan: “I’m happy with Aiyuk.” <br><br>He repeated what’s been obvious: Aiyuk’s hamstring injury has led to inconsistent practice time and some inconsistencies in play.<br><br>As Aiyuk notches more healthy practice time, he’ll see a bigger part of game plans. 49ers happy to have Sherfield
Ultimately, the 49ers relied heavily on Aiyuk last year during his 12 games in uniform, and it'd be surprising to see an about face after Shanahan utilized him so often as a rookie.
Aiyuk may have gotten off to a slow start that essentially saw him split snaps with Sherfield, but what transpired last Sunday shouldn't be the norm based on Shanahan's comments.