49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk Bringing Along Key Rookie: ‘I Watch Him Every Day’

Drake Jackson, San Francisco 49ers

Getty Drake Jackson and Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers.

The San Francisco 49ers‘ offense is very veteran-heavy; they have a ninth-year pro under center, a sixth-year starter at running back, and only one regular starting pass catcher, third-year pro Brandon Aiyuk, who is younger than 25. With a wealth of knowledge and experience across the skill positions, it would be understandable for younger players to take a step back and watch Kyle Shanahan‘s offense operate.

Fortunately for Niners fans, Danny Gray isn’t taking a wait-and-see approach to his rookie season, as he’s logged just 33 offensive snaps. No, the third-round pick out of SMU has continued to work on his offensive game and keep his head in the playbook until the next opportunity arises, as he detailed to Tom Dierberger of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Coming to the league, you kind of knew that you had to be on your details,” Gray said. “Everything matters. How you come off the ball, how you take the first step.”

Speaking on the intricacies of Shanahan’s offense, Gray detailed that nuance is key to offensive success under Shanahan.

“It’s not very complicated, but you do have to sit down and look over it every day,” Gray said of Shanahan’s playbook. “Even when you think you’ve got it, you still got to look over it because it can get challenging sometimes. I would say that the details are very important in this offense. Where to line up, where to be, how to run your routes, depth, all of that stuff. It’s very important. Everything plays off each other.”

Brandon Aiyuk Has Been an Important Resource for Danny Gray

Elsewhere in his interview with Dierberger, Gray explicitly shouted out Aiyuk for helping his adjustment to the NFL both on and off of the field.

“B.A. has helped me a lot,” Gray said. “He has helped me run my routes, how to stay consistent, jumping off the ball. I watch him every day, I watch how he attacks the day I watch how he comes out to practice every day I watch how he keeps his mentals straight.”

Even if Gray hasn’t been afforded the same opportunities as Aiyuk during his rookie season, as the Arizona State product had 36 more targets and 368 more offensive snaps through the first eight weeks of his rookie season, it’s still reassuring to see that he’s using his fellow rookie-scale contract performer as a resource until his opportunity to shine arises.

Drake Jackson Is Quietly Thriving for the 49ers

While Gray hasn’t earned many opportunities to see the field so far this season, his fellow Day 2 selection, Drake Jackson, has, as the rookie out of USC quietly ranks second among all rookies in sacks at three, tied with Chicago Bears second-round safety Jaquon Brisker and trailing only Detroit Lions second-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, who leads all rookies at 4.5, according to Statmuse.

Impressive stuff, right? Well, when you look at the numbers, it becomes all the more so; with Nick Bosa and Samson Ebukam in place in the starting lineup, Drake has logged just 175 defensive snaps or roughly 21.875 per game. Playing predominantly on third downs as the team’s fourth defensive end behind 2021 trade acquisition Charles Omenihu, Drake ranks third on the Niners in sacks and third in QB hits at three and five, respectively.

Can Drake keep his efficiency up with a more expansive workload? Only time will tell, but his production has been impressive.

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