Things haven’t been easy for the Dallas Cowboys defense in 2020. On the ground and through the air, they’ve given up a lot of yards and a lot of points throughout the season. Injuries at every level of the defense and some regression have made it difficult for the defense to find any consistency this season. Though the Cowboys are getting back significant pieces to their secondary this week, they come back facing a tough matchup in San Francisco 49ers Rookie Wide Receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Brandon Aiyuk was selected at pick number 25 by the 49ers in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was the sixth wide receiver taken in the first round after Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Reagor, and Justin Jefferson.
It’s taken a bit of time for Aiyuk to get going in his rookie campaign, but since week seven of the season, he’s been playing really well. Aiyuk is fifth in tied for seventh in the NFL in yards after the catch per reception among players with at least 46 targets in that span. He has more receiving yards and the same amount of touchdowns (in two fewer games) as Amari Cooper who is on pace for a 1,200-yard season in 2020.
If you prorate Aiyuk’s last five games over the course of a 16 game season, he’d be on a pace for 169 targets, 115 receptions, 1,584 yards, and 9.6 touchdowns. That’s elite wide receiver play even with Nick Mullens as your quarterback. He’s gone over 90 yards in four of his last five starts and has four receptions on targets 20 or more yards down the field since week seven, tied for 19th in the NFL in that span. But again, he only played in five games, while several other players he’s tied with like DeAndre Hopkins and Amari Cooper have played in seven.
Though he’s missed some time this season due to injury, Aiyuk has shown an ability to win at every level of the defense. His ability with the ball in his hands and his athleticism have flashed throughout the season. Even with reinforcements coming for the Dallas defense, Aiyuk has the ability to be a mismatch problem for the secondary today.