The 2023 NFL season will be Deebo Samuel’s fifth in the league but his first as the leader of the 49ers, and wide receiver Trent Williams couldn’t be happier.
After San Francisco’s 30-12 win over the New York Giants on Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium, Williams spoke not only about Samuel’s impressive performance on the field, but the leader he has become in the locker room.
“I think I saw the way he came back ready to go,” Williams said after the game. “He looked very different from the last time we saw him. Obviously the weight loss was very noticeable from the moment he walked in.”
But it wasn’t just about the weight, it was also about Samuel’s focus and diligence. Maybe it was his announcement to the world that his 2022 performance wasn’t good enough for himself or the 49ers.
Actions speak louder than words, however, and Samuel was all about proving his comeback this season. The All-Pro finished Thursday night’s contest catching six of his 12 targets for 129 yards and a touchdown, leaving Giants defenders in his wake.
Of Samuel’s 129 receiving yards, 78 came after the catch, and the receiver forced six missed tackles — the most by any receiver in a single game this season.
But even before the first kickoff of Week 1, the locker room recognized Samuel’s hard work.
“I love it for him, because he’s one of those guys that’s going to keep pushing himself more to be better and keep trying to make a difference,” Williams said. “I think he’s been hovering around captain status the last few years, since he’s been viewed as the top dog in the wide receiver room, and the most durable one.”
Through three contests, Samuel has shown he’s on a roll with 17 receptions on 28 targets for 247 yards, a touchdown and a 14.5 yards per reception average. The wide back is on the same hot pace as he was in 2021, when he recorded 1,405 receiving yards in the regular season and was named an All-Pro.
“He obviously contributes a lot to this team,” Williams said. “I think this year finally – I think everyone has finally seen enough. He’s a great playmaker, and I think he shows it every time we step out on that court.”
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