Quickly after the Niners wrap up stretching and transition to a particular groups interval, Samuel finds himself with the one opening in his each day apply schedule. With that point, Samuel sidles as much as coach Kyle Shanahan for a chat.
It occurs earlier than each apply, and the subject of dialog ranges from how Samuel is feeling to the upcoming session to the subsequent opponent. On a latest afternoon, Samuel introduced up his son — Tyshun Raequan Samuel Jr. — who was born on Dec. 27 however is outwardly already exhibiting indicators of following in his father’s footsteps.
“He is 3 weeks outdated and he is already holding his bottle by himself,” Shanahan mentioned. “So, [Deebo] is simply satisfied meaning he will be a prime choose within the draft.”
In these conversations, Shanahan and Samuel discuss, effectively, every part. Which is simply becoming as a result of every part is what Samuel does for the 49ers and it is also what he is meant to them this season.
In his third NFL season, Samuel has emerged as a supernova, forcefully inserting himself into a unique dialogue concerning the sport’s greatest offensive weapons. At occasions, he has additionally put the 49ers on his again, carrying them to the NFL divisional spherical of the playoffs towards the Green Bay Packers on Saturday (8:15 p.m. ET, Fox).
The factor about Samuel is not the quantity of success he is had however the variety of methods he is left opposing defenses in his cosmic mud.
Whereas enjoying receiver, working again and, often, quarterback, Samuel accounted for 15 whole touchdowns on his strategy to incomes first-team All-Professional honors for the primary time. Samuel is conscious of the distinctive job he has, even creating a reputation for it: broad again.
His 1,770 yards from scrimmage ranked third within the NFL.
He led the NFL in yards per reception (18.3) and was fourth in yards per rush (6.2) amongst gamers with no less than 50 receptions or rushes.
His eight dashing touchdowns are probably the most by a receiver in a season since 1970, and he is the one receiver within the trendy period to steer his crew in dashing touchdowns.
He grew to become one among 4 gamers — alongside Roger Craig, Marshall Faulk and Christian McCaffrey — to have no less than 1,000 receiving yards and 5 dashing touchdowns in a season.
In a wild-card win over the Dallas Cowboys final week, Samuel set an NFL document for many dashing yards (72) by a major receiver in a playoff sport throughout the Tremendous Bowl period, together with his ninth dashing landing of the yr.
At any time when the 49ers wanted an offensive jolt, Samuel and his distinctive mixture of hard-charging physicality and blazing velocity offered it regardless of how huge the second.
“That is simply naturally who he’s,” Shanahan mentioned. “He’ll be asleep proper earlier than kickoff and he’ll come out and never hesitate on the primary play. While you’re like that, it permits your coronary heart fee to be degree, your breath to be degree, and you’ve got a sure level to you, so you possibly can type of do the extra instinctual stuff and but nonetheless be violent sufficient to play on the degree he does. It is not one thing you see in numerous athletes.”
‘A pure soccer participant’
Samuel meant no disrespect. It is simply that what he is requested to do on a weekly foundation means there’s just one broad receiver price watching carefully: himself.
“I do know you possibly can study from different guys, however not in the event you’re not type of constructed like them,” Samuel mentioned. “For myself, it is to see how I come out and in of breaks, what a sure man’s matchup is or the issues that guys love to do when they’re dealing with guys like me although there’s not that many.”
For many of his football-playing life, Samuel has performed a hybrid position. He did it at Inman Chapman (South Carolina) Excessive and once more on the College of South Carolina.
Receiver has all the time been Samuel’s major place, however working again was not new to him when the Niners first began utilizing him there as a rookie in 2019.
Nonetheless, most of Samuel’s work throughout his first two seasons got here as a receiver. In his first 22 video games, Samuel had 22 carries. Of these, six got here from a real working again place.
When the damage bug started to chunk Niners working backs this yr, Shanahan and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel turned to Samuel to assist choose up the slack. After gaining 22 dashing yards — in comparison with 882 receiving yards — in his first eight video games this season, Samuel surged to 343 dashing yards and 7 dashing touchdowns throughout his last eight regular-season contests.
Together with the wild-card win in Dallas, Samuel has performed in 17 video games, dashing from a real working again place 64 occasions for 421 yards and 9 touchdowns. On these 9 touchdowns runs, Samuel has averaged 16.44 yards per carry, which is simply barely lower than the typical distance (16.76 yards) of the 840 receiving touchdowns within the NFL this season.
San Francisco is 7-0 when Samuel will get six-plus carries in a sport.
Contemplating how difficult the Niners’ outside-zone-heavy run scheme will be, it is truthful to imagine Samuel hung out within the assembly room with working backs coach Bobby Turner. That may be mistaken.
“He spends virtually no time with that,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk mentioned. “He is by no means within the working again room. That is what’s so spectacular is what a pure soccer participant Deebo is.”
Turner takes Samuel apart between apply durations, provides a number of recommendations on the proper footwork, working path and timing, and Samuel picks it up.
In some instances, Samuel hasn’t run a play in any respect throughout the week, however Turner will give directions (the trail, the place to line up and the place to goal, for instance) within the walk-through the day earlier than a sport. Samuel takes care of the remainder.
“You type of know what working performs you are gonna get, so it isn’t an excessive amount of stress,” Samuel mentioned. “At first it was type of onerous, however as time goes it simply will get simpler and simpler.”
Evolution of the ‘broad again’
Percy Harvin final performed within the NFL in 2016, however at 33 he seems like he nonetheless has some soccer in him. That perception bubbles to the floor when Harvin activates video games and sees extra gamers doing lots of the issues he as soon as did for the Vikings, Seahawks, Jets and Payments.
Wanting again, Harvin says his soccer prime got here too quickly, as extra all-purpose playmakers like him now dot the NFL panorama. He sees Tavon Austin in Jacksonville, Cordarrelle Patterson in Atlanta and, after all, Samuel.
Ask NFL evaluators for a comp for Samuel and Harvin’s title comes up probably the most.
“I believed for a yr or two, Tavon type of stored it going after which Twine, however aside from these two, I felt the place was going to type of fall off till final yr and the yr earlier than that,” Harvin mentioned. “It type of picked again up with Deebo. I am type of like, ‘OK, they understand you possibly can actually do some issues in the event you’ve acquired a man who can actually do it and is aware of what he is doing.'”
The weekly toll of enjoying within the NFL is already excessive for receivers who are sometimes requested to make catches over the center and log a number of miles working and hoping for the ball to come back their method.
What occurs while you transfer to working again, probably the most bodily demanding positions in sports activities? Along with studying performs from a unique spot on the sphere, working backs are subjected to extra collisions than every other ability place.
For somebody like Austin, who entered the league in 2013 at 5-foot-8 and 175 kilos, caring for his physique wasn’t as a lot of an element early in his profession as a result of he was so used to the twin position. He would not even use the chilly tub after video games.
“With age I’ve acquired to spend a little bit bit extra time on my physique,” Austin mentioned. “I’ve all the time been a man that takes care of my physique, however now it is actually to the acute. I really feel like after I try this, after I come out right here, I see that I am nonetheless working quick. In order that’s crucial factor.”
For Patterson, the transfer has been extra drastic. He performed extra snaps at working again (290) than receiver (150) in 2021. The Chicago Bears first requested Patterson to play working again in 2020. It took Patterson, who additionally entered the league in 2013 and had solely accomplished spot obligation at working again, a while to get used to it.
“I used to be like, ‘Oh Lord, that is totally different,'” Patterson mentioned. “However on the finish of the day, I simply do no matter I can.”
The one factor every hybrid participant has in widespread: a degree of bodily and psychological toughness that belies his dimension.
At 6 ft, 220 kilos, Samuel is constructed otherwise than many receivers. He views it as a bonus, and that mentality reveals up usually together with his potential to plow by way of defenders. Samuel led all receivers in yards after catch per reception (10), with the closest wideout coming at 8.53.
“When he will get the ball in his palms, it is simply totally different,” tight finish George Kittle mentioned. “He has a unique mindset — he is attempting to run individuals over, he is attempting to knock mouthpieces out, he is attempting to physique guys. It is a bodily sport, and he is on the market embarrassing fools.”
‘An excellent stress’
Contemplating what Samuel has accomplished this season, the thought he may take his sport to a different degree may appear shocking, however the 49ers consider his ceiling is proscribed by the depths of their creativeness.
“It is one thing that you just actually dream of as a coach by way of having the ability to make the most of individuals in several methods to attempt to discover advantageous seems for the offense generally,” McDaniel mentioned. “We problem ourselves to open our thoughts and actually see how we will do our greatest to emphasize a protection out, however do not get it twisted — it is a good stress. One thing that you just’re difficult your self with as a result of all he does is alleviate stress on sport days for his teammates and coaches alike.
“It is so much simpler to determine stuff out on Monday and Tuesday when the issue that you just’re attempting to unravel is how do I get this man the ball? And on sport day, ‘Hey, Deebo, this is the ball.’ That is the perfect factor for a coach that you can probably think about.”
For different coaches and personnel evaluators across the league, McDaniel’s phrases ought to resonate. Maybe the definition of what a No. 1 receiver seems like is altering. At minimal, the emergence of Samuel and his contemporaries ought to open some eyes to gamers who may in any other case fly beneath the radar.
Patterson wish to see the Professional Bowl add a spot for hybrid offensive gamers, noting “we’re simply attempting to set developments.”
In spite of everything, prototypical receivers must depend on quarterbacks to get them the ball, and defenses can take them away with scheme. Nonetheless, if the Niners need to put Samuel within the backfield and hand him the ball, there’s nothing anyone can do.
“While you discuss touches and methods to have an effect on the sport the place you do not have to get 10 catches as a receiver and you may go and nonetheless get touches out of the backfield, your possibilities of making a giant play are excessive,” Harvin mentioned. “You possibly can nonetheless have an effect on the sport in a giant method.”
Which is why within the final copycat league, everyone is looking for a large again of their very own.
“Anytime individuals type of strategy some uncharted territory, it type of opens individuals’s minds,” McDaniel mentioned. “However in the event you’ve watched any of the draft protection the final couple years, individuals have been looking for the subsequent Deebo. The issue is, there’s one Deebo.”
Quite the opposite, as Shanahan can attest, there really is one other Deebo. He is already holding a bottle on his personal, however he will not be draft-eligible till about 2043.
ESPN NFL reporters Michael DiRocco and Michael Rothstein contributed to this story.