EIGHT IS ENOUGH
Niner Report|October 2021
Set 49ers lineup still has several new starters
Craig Massei

DEEBO SAMUEL

Despite a landslide of injuries that sidelined just about every significant 49er over the course of last season, San Francisco got healthy during the offseason and returned 18 regular starters this year from that team. But the 49ers still had a surprising eight new faces in their starting lineup on offense and defense in their season opener at Detroit compared to the lineup San Francisco put on the field for its 2020 opener against Arizona. Here, The Niner Report takes a look at every new starter and where each stands as the team moves through the early part of its schedule, giving a bottom-line determination whether San Francisco is better or worse at the position now than the 49ers were when the season started last year.

WR DEEBO SAMUEL

The third-year veteran made a triumphant return to the starting lineup against the Lions after his 2020 season was thwarted by a series of injuries, including a foot injury that put him on injured reserve to start the season and forced Samuel to miss San Francisco's first three games. That set the tone for a season in which Samuel would suffer multiple hamstring injuries, and he went on to play in only eight total games, a disappointing encore to his standout rookie season. Dante Pettis started in Samuel’s place in last year’s opener and had a laughable performance, playing 45 snaps and failing to catch a pass while being targeted only once on his 30 pass routes. A healthy Samuel is so much more than that, and he made that clear in San Francisco’s opener, playing lights out while recording game-high totals of nine receptions for 189 yards, including a 79-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that gave San Francisco a commanding 38-10 lead. Samuel followed up that fantastic season debut with a game-high six receptions for 93 yards while adding eight yards rushing to carry San Francisco’s offense in Week 2 at Philadelphia. Yes, Deebo Samuel is back. And San Francisco’s starting lineup — and offense — is much better because of it.

C ALEX MACK

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