But for one breakout 2022 rookie, Samuel became his first wide receiver assignment — and ended up being his toughest challenge.
Jaquan Brisker of the Chicago Bears revealed to Heavy NFL senior reporter Matt Lombardo on Thursday, March 16 what it was like having to dial in for an All-Pro talent like Samuel…plus added how much of a challenge Samuel became for the second rounder out of Penn State.
“My first game against Deebo Samuel,” Brisker said, during an appearance on Heavy Sports’ The Matt Lombardo Show. “I thought I really had to lock in [against him], because I know that he’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s good when they give him carries, and he’s good with the YAC. I knew that I had to be balanced. I knew that I had to bring it against him on every single snap.”
From there, Brisker would then face a gauntlet that included facing Pro Bowl wide receivers Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings and Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Detroit Lions twice a year. He also had to line up across from Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins and CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys — two more Pro Bowl talents with the former a past Super Bowl winner. But Brisker, who became the Bears’ second-leading tackler, didn’t hesitate to say who his toughest battle was with.
“I would say it’s Deebo,” Brisker told Lombardo. “We played them once, and that was my first game, and he was really the only receiver that I felt like I really needed to pay attention to because he really affects the game.”
A Look Back at Brisker vs. Samuel
In going back to the film, Brisker managed to hold his own facing Samuel as both won their share of battles.
Early on as captured by Jarrett Bailey of USA Today, the 49ers test the rookie early with a misdirection run. Clearly, the 49ers expect the rookie guard to follow the pulling guard and tackle — which in this case Aaron Banks and Trent Williams are sprinting to their right in the attempt to trick the backend (including Brisker) into flowing that direction. Brisker, however, immediately gravitates toward his left. The end result is him forcing a fumble on Samuel inside the red zone — the first game changing play of his NFL career.
Samuel, though, didn’t take long to redeem himself after that miscue. He bulldozed his way into the end zone for the 49ers’ first touchdown in attacking the opposite side of Brisker.
Brisker and the Bears wound up pulling the upset in a rain-soaked Soldier Field. Brisker only allowed one catch for two yards that win per Pro Football Focus.
Does Samuel & 49ers Need Extra WR Help?
Samuel and the 49ers ended up going further as the NFC runner-up and being down to, literally, their fourth quarterback option. Now, both Samuel’s Niners and Brisker’s Bears have been two of the more aggressive spenders in free agency during the start of the NFL free agency period.
But on the 49ers’ end, is there a scenario where S.F. will need to bring in an extra wide receiver during the 2023 free agent cycle? Matt Barrows of The Athletic dove into that on Wednesday, March 15. He believes the 49ers don’t need to make a splashy move here and shared where they can turn.
“Look for them to draft at least one wideout and add more afterward,” Barrows wrote, indicating rookie or budget veteran to add next to Samuel and company.