The San Francisco 49ers will hit the practice field today to begin preparations for their matchup on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, and they’ll be doing so without one of their most dynamic offensive weapons.
It was announced on Monday that Deebo Samuel will miss at least the next two games due to a hamstring injury that he suffered early in the fourth quarter of the 49ers blowout win over New England. The loss of Samuel is a significant blow to an offense that seems to have finally found its stride with dominating performances the last two weeks.
While the loss of Samuel leading into the biggest game of the season is less than optimal, the 49ers offense still can find success against Seattle if they follow the plan I am about to lay out for them.
Step 1: Keep Kyle Juszczyk on the field. Over the last two weeks Juszczyk has been much more involved with the game plan than previously in the season, and the results speak for themselves. Juszczyk’s ability to line up as a fullback, tight end or wide receiver allows the 49ers to be able to run nearly the entire playbook with their base personnel. This allows the 49ers to have their best available group of playmakers on the field along with him, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Kendrick Bourne.
Step 2: Get Brandon Aiyuk more touches. Aiyuk has already shown that he can run all of the same type of plays that Kyle Shanahan has run with Samuel the past two weeks. Get the ball to Aiyuk early and often on jet sweeps and swing screens. Use him as a decoy to open up Kittle, or get the defense flowing to open up the running lanes for JaMycal Hasty and Jerick McKinnon.
Step 3: Start Jamycal Hasty. The 49ers running back group has been decimated by injuries this season and the time should be now for Hasty to get the bulk of the action. Hasty has not seen a lot of action in his rookie season, but has performed very well when called upon. Hasty has explosiveness similar to that of Raheem Mostert, and has shown the ability to be effective as both a runner and a pass catcher.
If you combine steps 1-3, the 49ers offense that has pounded teams on the ground the last two weeks and used the pass as an extension of the run game can stay intact. This is a very similar strategy to what we saw the 49ers use last season to take down Seattle with the division and home field advantage in the playoffs on the line.
Bonus step: Get Richie James involved in the offense. If the 49ers need to go with three wide receivers it should be Richie James, not Trent Taylor. James, who played some running back in college, has explosiveness and speed that Taylor doesn’t possess. Get him involved with a run or two, get him the ball on a bubble screen where he can use his speed and running ability, and take a shot or two down the field with him.
There you go. The plan is laid out. Now let’s see if Kyle Shanahan chooses to follow it.