How Deebo Samuel's foot heals could make or break 49ers' 2020 season


When Trent Taylor underwent surgery last August to repair a Jones fracture in his foot, the 49ers figured their slot receiver would be back for the bulk of the regular season.

It did not work out that way, as Taylor experienced repeated setbacks and ended up undergoing five surgeries.

The 49ers can only hope wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s return from the same injury goes a lot more smoothly.

Their season might depend on it.

Samuel on Tuesday sustained a broken fifth metatarsal, known as Jones fracture, the 49ers confirmed. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport first reported Samuel’s injury.

Samuel was scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday on his left foot.

The 49ers say they will have a better idea of Samuel’s timetable for return when the club reports to training camp in Santa Clara. Camp is scheduled to open in late-July.

Samuel wrote on social media that he expects to be back in 10 weeks.

Samuel sustained the injury during a workout with 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and some of his teammates Tuesday at Brentwood Academy in the Nashville area. The receiver tweeted Thursday that he'd be back in 10 weeks.

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The setback for Samuel and the 49ers is significant.

The 24-year-old was the team’s top wide receiver with 802 yards and three touchdowns on 81 receptions as a rookie. Samuel also gained 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He set the Super Bowl record for rushing yards from a wide receiver with 53 yards on three attempts.

Samuel enters his second season as the 49ers’ clear No. 1 wide receiver after veteran Emmanuel Sanders signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent.

Tight end George Kittle is the 49ers’ top pass-catcher. That does not change. But with Samuel’s status unclear for the early part of the season, it remains to be seen if another receiver can step up to take some of the heat off Kittle.

Samuel’s absence for any period of time would be a major blow to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Samuel is a threat on underneath, intermediate and deep routes. He is a tough runner with the ball in his hands. As his rookie season progressed, Samuel got better and better and better.

He could be expected to take his game to a higher level in 2020. Now, others might have to pick up the slack.

The 49ers invested a first-round draft pick in Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, a player with a similar skill set as Samuel.

Aside from Samuel, Kendrick Bourne is the 49ers’ top returning wide receiver.

Bourne caught 30 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns. The 49ers got little production from any other returning wide receiver, as Dante Pettis and Richie James combined for just 17 receptions for 274 yards and three touchdowns.

The 49ers are optimistic about getting significant production from Taylor and Jalen Hurd. Both players missed all of last season after their performances during the early portion of training camp showed that they could be major parts of the team’s offense.

Taylor underwent surgery for a Jones fracture before the 49ers’ first preseason game. Hurd appeared in just one preseason game before missing the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his back.

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The 49ers invested a seventh-round draft pick in Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings. They also signed veteran slot receiver Travis Benjamin.

San Francisco liked the group of wide receivers, mostly because it was easy to anticipate Samuel’s production taking a major leap.

Now, it is not as easy to be so optimistic about the collection of targets at wide receiver for Garoppolo.

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