NFC West Writer
On a team stocked with talented players, San Francisco 49ers do-everything wide receiver Deebo Samuel stands out among the rest because of his swagger and home-run playmaking ability, giving San Francisco’s offense another dimension few teams have in the NFL.
“Honestly, Deebo is Deebo,” 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy said after his team’s impressive win over the Philadelphia Eagles. “He’s fun to be around. He’s electric within meetings and then obviously out on the practice field. In the locker room and stuff, maybe he was saying some stuff that was fun for all of us to hear but Deebo was just having fun with it.
“But was it anything out of the ordinary? I don’t think so, Deebo is Deebo. He’s fun to be around, we all knew he was ready for this game and he’s been waiting for it for a long time. His play did the rest.”
Samuel finished with nine touches for 198 scrimmage yards and a career-high three touchdowns, backing up his talk leading into that NFC showdown in Philadelphia. Samuel is the first 49ers receiver with three touchdowns in a game since Terrell Owens in 2001.
He averaged 22 yards per touch, and his 2,568 yards after the catch since he entered the NFL in 2019 is second to only Cooper Kupp (2,596) during that stretch. Samuel was named NFC Player of the Week, the first San Francisco receiver to earn that honor three times since Jerry Rice.
What makes Samuel different from guys like Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk is his angry running style, combined with elite acceleration and elusiveness that allows him to take short plays and turn them into back-breaking, big plays in critical moments of the game.
“Deebo’s awesome,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters this week. “I mean, as you guys know, he’s a special guy when he gets that ball in his hands. And him and Jerry are probably wired a little bit differently how they play the game, but they both played at a high level and really helped the Niners out a lot.”
Along with that unique, explosive running style, Samuel provides a contagious energy that spreads throughout the rest of the roster in big games. For an example of that, you only need to go back to Samuel’s best season, when he finished with 1,770 scrimmage yards and 14 scores.
Samuel’s infectious energy brings out the best in his teammates.
“Deebo’s one of the best football players I’ve ever seen,” San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner said. “Performances like that don’t surprise me. It’s only a matter of time before he does pop off like that. People were saying things about things he may have said before the game. But I think it’s safe to say that his actions spoke louder than his words.”
Samuel’s eye-popping performance against the Eagles leads this week’s NFC West Stock Watch:
Deebo Samuel, 49ers: Shanahan might want to put Samuel in bubble wrap for the rest of the regular season, making sure one of his best players reaches the playoffs healthy. Samuel already missed two games this year with a hairline fracture in his shoulder and has never played the full complement of games in a regular season since he entered the league in 2019.
The 49ers are 8-9 in games Samuel does not play, and 43-18 in games Samuel is on the field. Because of the physical way in which Samuel plays, San Francisco would be wise to limit his touches until the games matter most — in the postseason.
Kyren Williams, Rams: The Notre Dame product has elevated L.A.’s offense since returning from an ankle injury two weeks ago. Williams leads the Rams with 687 rushing yards. And Williams also has 877 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns.
But since returning from an ankle injury two weeks ago, Williams has stepped it up a notch, with 316 scrimmage yards and three total touchdowns in wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns.
Nick Bosa, 49ers: The Ohio State product got off to a slow start in terms of sacks after leading the NFL with 18.5 last season. However, Bosa has heated up of late. During San Francisco’s four-game win streak, Bosa leads the league in quarterback pressures (30) and is second in sacks (5). Bosa is third in the league in quarterback pressures (71) and has eight sacks on the year.
With Bosa helping to create a consistent pass rush up front, the 49ers have held opposing offenses to 12.3 points per game since the bye week.
Tariq Woolen, Seahawks: After a surprising rookie season as a fifth-round pick that included reaching the Pro Bowl, Woolen’s production has dropped off this season. Part of the reason for Woolen’s struggles is he was slowed in training camp by a knee injury that required surgery. And he’s been dealing with a lingering shoulder injury.
However, after finishing in a tie for the league lead with six interceptions last season, Woolen has just two interceptions this season. He also leads Seattle with nine accepted penalties for 122 yards, including four for pass interference.
Shane Waldron, Seahawks: Seattle’s offensive coordinator received criticism this week for his fourth-and-2 play call against the Dallas Cowboys last week in which he allowed Micah Parsons to rush unabated to pressure Geno Smith on a play that sealed the game for the Cowboys.
Along with that, Waldron has been unable to consistently generate offensive production with playmakers like DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Ken Walker III. Losers of four of their last five games, the Seahawks have averaged just 19.2 points per contest over that stretch.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals: Arizona is 2-2 with Murray back in the fold after starting the season 1-8, so Murray has helped the Cardinals win games since his return to the field four weeks ago.
However, Murray’s play has been somewhat inconsistent, as exemplified by his career-low 82.1 passer rating. The Cardinals and Murray get a chance to clean up some things on offense during the bye week, which I wrote about here.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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