The 49ers will need to plan for at least the next three games without Debo Samuels, and the All-Pro is sure to add to the wide receiver group in the absence of Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan Samuels suffered a less severe ankle injury than originally thought and a torn MCL. He was relieved that he was injured. The wideout is expected to be out for “three-ish” weeks, which means he could return for Week 18 when the 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season finale.
Until then, Brandon Ayuk, Jawan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud and Danny Gray will have to fill the gap.
“I think the other guys are very ready,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “I think these guys love the opportunity. They always want to be out there more. It drives me crazy that I’m not within five pitches every game, so those guys love that.”
The 49ers’ group of wideouts, Samuels and Jennings, both had to be out in Week 8 when both dealt with stomach injuries. Ayuck was Jimmy Garoppolo’s top receiver, catching all six targets for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Christian McCaffrey was a big part of the offense’s dominance against 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 good job against the Rams,” Shanahan said. “Even that week we thought we’d get Jawan, we didn’t get him until the weekend and a lot of guys had to be up, so our guys will be ready on Thursday.”
Gray finally caught his first pass as an NFL wide receiver in Week 14 and expects to see more of Shanahan than the starter. Shanahan has talked about the importance of Southern Methodist production in the past and seems to be moving forward with more consistency and gray.
“I think Danny’s got the urgency that he’s had, he’s really picked it up here in these six weeks,” Shanahan said. “His game has gotten a lot better, so we feel like it’s time for him to help us out and do things the right way and get more hair in the game.”
The 49ers could look to work in McCloud in a similar fashion to Samuels. While McCloud isn’t 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 ready for a big role.
“Yes, you can use them in the same way,” Shanahan said. “Of course they’re different entities, but don’t tell Ray-Ray. He gets very angry. If you put Deebo on any run and you tell him he can only do these things, but not only that, you have to make an appointment to meet with him an hour later because he’s going to convince you otherwise.
“And that’s why he’s been a good football player his whole life. Ray-Ray is a bulldog and he doesn’t care about size.”
RELATED: How Shanahan gave Lynch faith that Purdy would succeed
Samuel is difficult to replace, but Shanahan is confident that the 49ers have the personnel to hold down the fort for a few weeks.
Download and follow the 49ers Talk podcast