The wide receiver Samuel once had 22 combined ground based yards and just one touchdown when the 49ers were 3-5. But now, Samuel has added 218 extra rushing yards, has crossed the end zone five times and averages an astonishing 7.3 yards per carry as the ‘Niners have won their last four of five games.
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This indicates that Samuel has absorbed a lot of valuable information in the running back room, right? Plus this means that Samuel has shifted from one room to another and sits in on running back position meetings multiple times a week, correct?
Well, one 49ers Pro Bowler who has lined up in the backfield revealed to Bay Area reporters on Thursday, December 16 what really goes on between Samuel and the RB room.
Samuel Doesn’t Attend Meetings With RBs
Five-time Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk gave away the secret to Samuel’s running game success: Samuel isn’t present when names like Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Jeff Wilson and running back coach Robert Turner Jr. are in the same room breaking down plays.
“The impressive thing is that he spends almost no time (in the running backs’ meeting room). That’s how impressive of a natural runner he is,” Juszczyk said.
The real secret to Samuel’s run game prowess, Juszczyk revealed, is what happens after Samuel receives the handoff.
“Everyone gets out of his way and lets him do his thing,” Juszczyk said.
Samuel, with his wide receiver speed, is able to get separation between himself and a front seven defender with the ball in his hand. But while there are some 49ers who, as the 30-year-old fullback described, get out of his way when Samuel is coming, there are those 49ers who pave the way for Samuel — and he responds with speed, vision and his burst to the end zone as captured here from the win on Sunday, December 12 in his first game back from a groin strain:
The 49ers have had similar success with that same designed running play for Samuel before, notably against the Minnesota Vikings.
Ultimately, plays that get executed like this stems from knowing what the assignment is on the play and, in the case of Samuel, knowing which running back hole to hit and not referring to the route tree for receivers. Knowing where to run often comes from playbook studying at home. And clearly as shown in the touchdown runs, Samuel isn’t lost when he has the ball out of the backfield.
Juszczyk isn’t just someone who helps clear running lanes for Samuel as an extra blocker, he’s a fan of Samuel proven by this sweater he wore during the presser.
49ers Head Coach Shanahan Addresses Samuel’s Lessen WR Load
Statistically, Samuel has still put up astronomical numbers as a wide receiver: Averaging 18 yards a catch and surpassing 1,000 yards this season, the latter a first in his three-year career.
But along with the minimal yards the last three weeks, Samuel has also only caught a combined three footballs in those same contests — one catch each game.
The question was asked to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan on Wednesday, December 15: Is it an issue or concern seeing his lack of receiving production?
“No, I don’t think so,” Shanahan said to reporters. “It’s just kind of how it is sometimes. And Deebo didn’t play as much on third down. Him not practicing all week, we limited him a bunch with this play count. And I think he ended up getting like 40, 45, but didn’t have as many opportunities. But the one we did give him an opportunity he did pretty good on.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Samuel took 55 snaps in his return to the lineup. Samuel delivered his most success going up the right end (outside shade of the tight end) with three carries, 30 yards, two first downs and his lone touchdown up that alley against Cincy.
Samuel has accomplished his breakout running back season without needing a running back meeting. Proof he learns just as fast as he plays.