Deommodore Lenoir sees Brandon Aiyuk as a top-5 WR in the NFL

Aug 1, 2023, 6:00 AM

Marquise Brown #2 of the Arizona Cardinals catches a pass against Deommodore Lenoir #38 of the San ...

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 08: Marquise Brown #2 of the Arizona Cardinals catches a pass against Deommodore Lenoir #38 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: Brandon Aiyuk has been dominating 49ers training camp. So much so that he’s helped cornerback Deommodore Lenoir improve his game.

The WR-CB combo have developed a friendship over the years in San Francisco, one that goes beyond the realms of football. But it’s what the players do on the field that has sparked each other’s willingness to compete.

Seeing his offensive counterpart take over training camp, Lenoir has been inspired to be better, calling Aiyuk a huge help to his improvement.

“It’s a big help. I value him as a top-5 [wide receiver] in this league,” Deommodore Lenoir said Monday. “Any tips and things I can work on, he tells me just to [make] me better because we all got the same goal, we’re on the same team. And we got one goal, just to win.”

In return, Aiyuk feels a similar fondness for the corner, wanting him to succeed at every junction.

“He’s a dog, he’s a real dog, Aiyuk said recently. “[The coaches] challenged him since he got here, and I think he stepped up to the challenge ever since. Not a lot of people can lead, a lot of people shy away from a challenge. But he stepped right into it; he’s become a good player.”

Thrust into a starting role last season, the Oregon alum has been tested in the fire by the 49ers. Serving as the team’s No. 2 corner, Lenoir had an up & down 2022 season. But it’s because of the experience that he feels he finally belong in the NFL.

“What made me feel like I belong was just having to fight,” Lenoir said after training camp practice Monday, speaking about some of the success he enjoyed during his sophomore season. “You know, I wasn’t having the best games every week, so, just me just having to come to myself and say I’m going to get it right — it just takes time, and taking bumps and bruises.

Entering 2023, it’s all about improving his play. In order to do that though, he has to retrace his steps a bit.

Similar to Aiyuk, “DMo” replays past mistakes to better himself in the future. And one play in particular stand out.

Playing the Arizona Cardinals in Week 18, Lenoir was beaten by former WR A.J. Green for a 77-yard touchdown. Biting too quickly on the play, the corner had to race downfield to attempt a play on the wideout. Remembering the panick he felt in the moment, Lenoir vows to not repeat the same mistake again.

“One play that really helped me, really made me change my mindset was that A.J. Green play. I ain’t give up a touchdown all the way until that play, so when that kind of happened, I really just made a vow to myself that I would never let that happen again. After that play, I just got more confident, you know, and then it carried on to the playoffs.”

He was right, getting better with each game, as his team reached further in the postseason.

Now on the heels of his first starting season, Lenoir hopes to get the most out of the 2023 season. And thanks to the acquisition of defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, the DB feels confident his play has already seen improvement under the “cornerback whisper”.

“He’s a real technician,” Lenoir said of Wilks. “He’s just helping us kick 45 [degrees] because that’s what we had a problem with. As I said, working, opening the gate, having us turn and run. Every guy in this league is fast — well, most every guy in this league is fast.

“It’s hard to just be a track meet every game, so you’ve got to work angles.”

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Deommodore Lenoir sees Brandon Aiyuk as a top-5 WR in the NFL