3 Ways the 49ers Can Compensate for Deebo Samuel's Absence
The San Francisco 49ers are used to plugging running backs into their offensive system and having no drop off in production.
Samuel leads the 49ers in every receiving category, and he has been used in the rushing game more over the last few weeks.
The good news for the 49ers is they face the struggling Seahawks on Sunday, but if they do not come up with ways to make up for Samuel's high output, they could be susceptible to an upset.
The last thing San Francisco needs is an unexpected loss since it is in the thick of the NFC wild-card race. Kyle Shanahan's team moved into the No. 6 seed after Week 12's win over the Minnesota Vikings, and it has a chance to create separation between itself and the five-win teams in the NFC over the next few weeks.
Use Brandon Aiyuk in the Deebo Samuel Role
Brandon Aiyuk became a larger part of the San Francisco offense in the last month.
The second-year wide receiver set a single-game season-high in receiving yards in Week 12, and he has 19 receptions in the last four games.
Aiyuk has been used mostly as a deep threat for Jimmy Garoppolo, but he needs to feature in the No. 1 receiver role on Sunday.
Garoppolo has a good rapport with Aiyuk, and he has experience of being the top target in certain games during his young career.
Aiyuk could also be used in the running game in the same manner in which Samuel was called on recently.
San Francisco uses Aiyuk's speed on punt returns, so the offensive staff should have no problem dialing up a few running plays for him.
It is never a good time for an injury to happen, but Samuel's absence comes at the perfect time for Aiyuk, who is peaking after a brutal start to the campaign.
If Samuel got hurt in September or October, Aiyuk might not have been ready to take over his role. He had more than two receptions in one of the first five games.
Continue to Run the Ball at a High Rate
The San Francisco running backs should be salivating after what the Seahawks defense conceded against the Washington Football Team on Monday night.
Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic ran rampant. Gibson carried the ball 29 times for 111 yards. McKissic caught all five of his targets for 26 yards and added 30 yards on the ground. He had a pair of touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground.
San Francisco ran for 143 yards in its Week 4 loss to the Seahawks. A similar total is expected after how poorly Seattle performed against Washington's running backs.
An overpowering running game will allow the 49ers to take pressure off Garoppolo in a tough road environment and keep the ball out of Russell Wilson's hands.
Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson Jr. should expect a heavy workload on the ground. They could be two of the top fantasy football performers in Week 13 because of their favorable matchup.
Put Trust in Jauan Jennings
Jauan Jennings is the San Francisco wide receiver with the most to gain during Samuel's absence.
Jennings caught two passes for 24 yards and a score in Week 12. He did not have more than 20 receiving yards in a single game this season before Sunday.
Garoppolo should still target George Kittle and Aiyuk on a regular basis, but he will need a third option to work with if Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs clog up the middle of the field.
Jennings is averaging 8.9 yards per reception on his seven catches this season, and he was targeted for a scoring play against the Vikings.
Jennings has a small NFL sample size, but the 49ers have to be encouraged that he comes into Sunday with a bit of confidence from finding the end zone.
The worst-case scenario is that Jennings fails to impress in his increased role and the Niners use a heavy dose of the running game to win.
If Jennings shines in his increased role, he has the potential to earn a high number of targets and add to San Francisco's list of offensive weapons when Samuel returns.