Deebo Samuel

Why Rice believes Deebo primed for big season after self-critique

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Deebo Samuel didn't hold back when summarizing his 2022 NFL season. While the 27-year-old might be his worst critic, some don't agree with his self-assessment. 

However, 49ers legend Jerry Rice believes Samuel had a quality season but understands the self-criticism. Rice notes that Samuel's mindset should be a sign that the All-Pro doesn't want to repeat his performance from last season. 

Players like the South Carolina product set a high bar for themselves, and when their expectations are not met, they see their season as anything but successful.

"I thought he played really well last year," Rice told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco on the latest episode of "49ers Talk" from the American Century Championship golf tournament at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort.

"Now, for him to say he didn't have an exceptional year, that means he's going to come back stronger this year, which we need that. It sets the bar really high, but he's also letting everybody know that there's more coming and I promise you one thing, I'm going to get better."

Rice adds that Brandon Aiyuk's upward trajectory could benefit Samuel and his goal of a bounce-back season. The 60-year-old believes the duo can exploit the opposition's inability to focus on just one receiver. 

"I think [Aiyuk] is starting to show, 'Hey, I'm right there with Deebo,' " Rice continued. "For those guys to battle, the way they're going to battle this year, I think it's going to open up so many opportunities. And then you got George Kittle on the inside and McCaffrey coming out of the backfield. So no excuses this year. I don't want to hear no excuses this year. None." 

Samuel battled hamstring and ankle injuries last season, affecting his on-field production (56 receptions, 632 receiving yards and two touchdowns). 

However, if the 49ers star has a decent bill of health this season, expect him to try and replicate his breakout 2021 campaign in which he registered 77 receptions for 1,405 receiving yards and six touchdowns through the air and 50 rushing attempts for 365 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.  

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