There are non-quarterbacks who have had a huge impact on their teams in the NFL this season.
- Cooper Kupp caught 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Los Angeles Rams.
- For the Indianapolis Colts, Jonathan Taylor touched the ball 372 times, totaling 2,171 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns.
- Najee Harris is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top rusher with 307 carries for 1,200, but the rookie is also their second-best pass catcher. He totaled 74 receptions during the season, behind the Steelers’ leading wide receiver, Diontae Johnson, and his 110 receptions.
Deebo Samuel isn’t being asked to carry the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive load in the same way that’s required for the aforementioned offensive workhorses. His 136 total touches are less than Kupp’s total receptions. However, it’s what Samuel does with those touches that brought the 49ers to tears in the second half of the season and made them a legitimate threat in the NFC playoffs.
Think of Samuel as Ty Montgomery with rockets in his cleats. At Stanford, Montgomery was an excellent wide receiver, but he was so athletic that he was also used in the backfield. He carried the ball 23 times as a senior. The Green Bay Packers drafted him, and in his second season they lost so many running backs to injury that they used Montgomery in that position not as a wrinkle to their offense, but as a necessity because that they had no one else.
That season, Montgomery carried the ball 77 times for 457 yards and three touchdowns, and also caught 44 passes for 348 yards during the regular season. He was also a key contributor in the playoffs, as the Packers advanced to the NFC Championship Game. Montgomery currently plays for the New Orleans Saints and hasn’t had such a productive season since.
Or could he be a new Slash, calling back to when Kordell Stewart shuffled some QB/WRs and everything the Steelers needed at one point? Deebo Iit’s like a new-S-agewhip like It is legitimately playing two positions.
Samuel has carried the ball 59 times for the 49ers this season and is their rushing touchdown leader (8). He’s averaging 6.2 yards per carry and if he feels like he gets a first down every time the 49ers hand him the ball, it’s because of those 59 carries, 21 of which came. ended with a first attempt.
It can be so shocking to see Samuel succeed in the backfield that one can forget that he might actually be the best wide receiver in the NFL. He caught 77 passes, less than half of Kupp’s total, and he still had 1,405 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Samuel averaged 18.2 yards per reception and LEDs all wide receivers in average yards after catch (10.4) and league-wide in yards after contact (387.)
Last Sunday, Samuel saved the 49ers season. They had to beat the Los Angeles Rams to qualify for the playoffs and trailed 17-3 at halftime. Samuel ran in a 16-yard touchdown on the Niners‘ opening practice in the third quarter, then on their next practice he threw a 24-yard touchdown pass because why not throw your first NFL touchdown pass in the most important game of the season.
In the fourth quarter, after the two-minute warning, the 49ers had a 0.4% probability of victory, the lowest-ever recorded by a winning team because Next Gen Stats started tracking this in 2016. When the 49ers had the ball on their own 26-yard line with 50 seconds and no timeouts remaining, it was up to samuel 43 yard catch who brought them into Los Angeles 20 yard line. The Niners tied the game two games later with a touch.
It’s the kind of play that can cause Cowboys defensive coaches sleepless nights. They have the second-best defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, but the Rams have fifth, and Samuel shredded them in the game’s most important moments.
Samuel doesn’t have the full statistical output of Kupp, and certainly not Taylor in the current game, but that’s what makes his 2021 season so special. Samuel and the 49ers have used his athleticism and ability to break tackles 136 times this season to try and break games. A good passer can make a defense nervous and uncomfortable on the pitch, but a play-breaker like Samuel who can score from anywhere and anytime. HWe can terrify a defense.
There’s no one like him in the NFL, and for any team that faces the 49ers in the playoffs, they have to find a way to limit his impact, otherwise this game-circuit breaker could break their season.