SANTA CLARA — Brandon Aiyuk knows first-hand how challenging Kyle Shanahan's system is for rookie wide receivers, which makes what he has seen from Ronnie Bell even more impressive.
Not only was the rookie 49ers receiver been active in the offense during the NFL preseason, but he also was involved in the return game.
“He’s doing a great job,” Aiyuk said multiple times Monday, just for an emphasis. “He’s pushed our unit forward in a good way. Coming out here handling his business in the preseason games. Going out there practicing every day. I’ve seen a lot of rookie receivers come in here and not be able to, myself included, and not be able to handle whether it’s the grind of a whole entire training camp or the mental aspect it.
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“He’s done a great job with everything, so I’m excited to see where he can take it to.”
Bell was involved in the 49ers' offense in the first two preseason games but not as much in the third. The snaps reduction likely was because Shanahan and the coaching staff had seen enough of what the seventh-round draft pick was capable of, penciling him onto the 53-man roster. Bell caught 10 of his 15 targets for 172 yards in San Francisco's first two preseason games.
Bell also ran a successful jet sweep against the Las Vegas Raiders that went for 15 yards, further showing his versatility. Possibly the most important aspect of his skill set, however, is his contribution on special teams.
With Ray-Ray McCloud out due a fractured wrist, Bell has taken over return duties returning four punts for 35 yards, with his longest return being 28 yards. The rookie has been even more productive on his four kick returns for 82 yards.
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Bell has also impressed cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who has had the task of covering him throughout training camp. The defensive back has noticed marked improvement from the receiver in the short time he has been with the 49ers.
“He’s a dog,” Lenoir said. “A player that’s willing to take the coaching, get better and he’s not going to stop until he gets better. That’s what I’ve seen from the preseason from him. I see a player that just wants to get better.”
If Bell can continue his upward trajectory, he has the potential to carve out a solid role on the 49ers offense in his first NFL season.