Why Aiyuk wasn't targeted once in 49ers' win over Lions


DETROIT -- After a standout rookie season, Brandon Aiyuk was not targeted at all in the 49ers' 41-33 win Sunday over the Detroit Lions.

Kyle Shanahan explained that the reason the sophomore receiver’s playing time was reduced was a result of missing several practices with a hamstring injury. 

Trent Sherfield, who has been a reliable target for both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance throughout training camp, has offered competition for Aiyuk. The former Arizona Cardinal receiver has an apparent edge in the the standings thus far. 

“We started Trent,” Shanahan said. “They’ve been rotating a lot throughout the preseason, but Aiyuk has only been back for a week after he tweaked his hamstring and we want to be smart with that.

"Also, Trent Sherfield has earned the right to be out there more.” 

Aiyuk led the 49ers in receiving in 2020, boasting 60 receptions for 748 yards in 12 games. The thought was that Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel would offer a great one-two punch for Shanahan’s offense. 

After being held back early in 2020 with a hamstring issue, Aiyuk has again dealt with the same limitation during his second training camp. Sherfield has made the most of his opportunity. 

Sherfield ended the day catching two of his three targets for 23 yards and a touchdown while being on the field earlier and for more snaps than his younger counterpart. Aiyuk, who only returned two punts in his rookie season in five special teams snaps, was the 49ers' starting punt returner on Sunday.

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Lost practice time for Aiyuk might have been the tipping point, but it appears that things could remain the same if Sherfield continues to outperform the 23-year-old on the field. 

“Aiyuk hadn’t gone the last 10 days with his hamstring and Sherfield was pushing as it was. I was planning on them getting a lot in, rotating the both of them and all five guys that were up today. I don’t know how many plays he had but I’m sure it was less than expected.” 

While Shanahan is not pointedly saying that Aiyuk has lost his starting job to Sherfield, the message he is sending to the young receiver seems pretty clear. 

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