Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers just got one of their most explosive receivers back.
After suffering a jones fracture back in June, wide receiver Deebo Samuel was activated off the team’s non-football injury list Saturday to take up a spot on the final 53-man roster, but also see playing time in the 49ers’ opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) September 5, 2020
As NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco points out above, Samuel is now available the opening NFC West clash, but it’s not necessarily certain that the receiver will be at 100 percent or will even see playing time.
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Samuel’s Impact on the 49ers
To put it simply, a guy like Deebo Samuel is head coach Kyle Shanahan’s dream player.
Coming out of South Carolina, the 49ers took a shot in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft on Samuel, and even after one season, it’s looking like an excellent addition.
Elusive and slippery, Samuel uses lateral quickness about as well as any receiver in the NFL, which sees Shanahan and the 49ers look to get the ball in his hands in as many different ways as possible.
This is why Samuel saw 14 handoffs in 2019, which he took for 159 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, which combined with his receiving totals for 961 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns.
Throughout the playoffs, San Francisco gave Deebo the ball in a rushing role even more often, with the receiver seeing six rushing touches in the 49ers’ three playoff games, and still averaging a whopping 11.4 per attempt.
Considering the complex and intricate nature of Shanahan’s schemes, Deebo opens up the 49ers offense to extra dimensions that very few players in the NFL offer.
While the 49ers have talented receivers and offensive weapons like wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor as well as tight end George Kittle, Samuel is a completely different entity in terms of what the team is able to do.
After all, we are talking about a player who led the NFL in forced missed tackles as a rookie. Not bad.
Even if the 49ers don’t get to have Samuel as an option against the Cardinals in Week 1, the news that he’s been activated off the non-football injury list is encouraging for San Francisco.
Taylor battled setback after setback for the same type of injury that Samuel is recovering from in 2019, forcing the receiver out of the entire season.
At least with Samuel being activated, the 49ers know that they won’t be dealing with a similar situation. That being said, don’t be surprised if the team takes it fairly slow with the second-year receiver to ensure they don’t re-aggravate the injury and force Samuel more time away.
If the 49ers can have at least one of Samuel or rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk on the gameday lineup come next Sunday, they’ll be in fine shape. However, the team may have to take the hard route against the Cardinals to ensure that the team is as healthy as it can be for the long haul.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the NFL for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.