49ers predictions: Brandon Aiyuk will break out of slump vs. Bears

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

If the 49ers want to turn their frustrating season around, Brandon Aiyuk will have to be part of the solution, and that starts in Week 8 against the Bears.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has to understand whatever his game-plan approach has been the last five weeks hasn’t worked.

The Niners are 0-4 during that span and are experiencing one of the more frustrating offensive campaigns since Shanahan took over duties in 2017. Yet, if San Francisco wants to put a stop to the losing streak and get back into the win column, Shanahan will need to change things up.

A lot.

One of the bigger storylines amid all the challenges this year has been second-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk‘s lack of use. After a promising rookie campaign that saw the former first-round NFL Draft pick out of Arizona State nearly set a franchise record for most receiving yards by a first-year player with 748 over 12 games played, Aiyuk now has only nine receptions for 96 yards over the 49ers’ six-game opening span.

Quite the fall from grace.

Shanahan has both said Aiyuk “isn’t in a doghouse” of any kind, but the talented wide receiver isn’t quite where the Niners want him to be just yet either.

If there was ever a time for Aiyuk to finally make a game-altering impact, it’s Week 8 when San Francisco visits the 3-4 Chicago Bears.

49ers should anticipate Brandon Aiyuk going off vs. Bears

The Bears have their own share of problems heading into this matchup, including fielding one of the league’s worst offenses.

Yet Chicago also knows fellow wideout Deebo Samuel is the lone reliable threat the 49ers have at their disposal, and it’s not going to be shocking at all to see the Bears do everything possible to keep him out of the equation. Potentially difficult, yes, as Chicago’s pass rush will be without star edge rusher Khalil Mack, who is out with a foot injury. But if that means Samuel is facing double coverage on Sunday, so be it.

It isn’t the case of Aiyuk not being productive when he’s gotten the ball in his hands. Case in point, he’s still averaging 10.7 yards per reception, which is a shade below 2 yards less than his rookie year.

No, the problem has been a lack of targets. In 2020, Aiyuk saw an average of eight targets per game. This year, that number is down to 2.7.

Related Story: Brandon Aiyuk must be featured more in 49ers offense

Chicago is allowing an average of 6.3 yards per pass play this season, which is roughly in the middle of the back. But with a depleted pass rush sans Mack, one might figure this number could increase, forcing the Bears to rely more on coverage and being convinced of doubling Samuel, the top threat.

Yet Chicago’s two starting cornerbacks, Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor, haven’t exactly been prolific in their coverage duties, allowing 17.8 and 14.6 yards per completion, respectively, and boasting respective Pro Football Focus pass-coverage grades of just 55.7 and 52.6.

Unlike Week 7, when Aiyuk and the Niners couldn’t take advantage of a depleted Indianapolis Colts secondary because of the shoddy weather, Shanahan shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of the Bears’ own pass-coverage woes in Week 8.

If so, Aiyuk might finally get into the stride he needs to be in, and San Francisco certainly needs him to turn that page, too.

The 49ers and Bears kick off from Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 31 at 1 p.m. ET.

Next. 5 players 49ers must aggressively shop at NFL trade deadline. dark