The 49ers’ wide receivers are relishing the chance to step up in the absence of Deebo Samuel

The 49ers’ wide receivers are relishing the chance to step up in the absence of Deebo Samuel

The 49ers’ wide receivers are relishing the chance to step up in the absence of Deebo Samuel

The 49ers will need to plan at least the next three games without Deebo Samuel, and Kyle Shanahan is confident the wide receiver roster will increase in the absence of the injured All-Pro.

Shanahan was relieved that Samuel suffered a less serious ankle sprain and MCL injury than initially thought. The “broad back” is expected to be out of action for “three weeks,” meaning he could return for Week 18 when the 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season finale.

Until then Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud and Danny Gray will have to fill the void.

“I think the other guys are more than ready,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “I think those guys love the opportunity. They always want to be out there more. They’re mad that I don’t participate in all the plays, so those kids appreciate that.

The 49ers’ wideout squad had to step up without Samuel and Jennings in Week 8, when both were dealing with hamstring injuries. Aiyuk was Jimmy Garoppolo’s star receiver, carrying all six of his goals for 81 yards and one touchdown reception.

Christian McCaffrey was also a big part of the offense’s dominance of the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8, throwing a touchdown pass, catching a touchdown reception, and rushing for a touchdown.

“I know they did a great job against the Rams,” Shanahan said. “Even that week we thought we were going to get Jauan, in the end we didn’t get him and a number of the guys had to come forward so our guys will be ready on Thursday.”

Gray finally caught his first pass as an NFL wide receiver in Week 14 and Shanahan expects to see more from the rookie. Shanahan has already spoken about the need for the Southern Methodist product to be more consistent, and Gray appears to be progressing.

“I think Danny has had the urgency that he’s had, he’s really picked it up here these past six weeks,” Shanahan said. “His game has improved a lot so we thought it was a matter of time that he could help us out there and he’s doing things right and he’s gotten into the game a hair more.”

The 49ers could also look to work McCloud in a similar fashion to Samuel. While McCloud doesn’t have the same body type as Samuel, the five-year NFL veteran plays like he is. A standout on special teams, the 26-year-old is poised for a bigger role.

“Yes, you can use them the same way,” Shanahan said. “They’re definitely different bodies, but don’t tell Ray-Ray. He is very offended. If you put Deebo in any race and tell him that he can only do these, but not that, you’ll have to prepare yourself or make time to meet him an hour later, because he’ll convince you otherwise.

“And that’s why he’s been such a good football player his entire career. Ray-Ray is a bulldog out there and he doesn’t mind his size.”

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Samuel is tough to replace, but Shanahan is confident the 49ers have the manpower to keep the fort going for a few weeks.

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