Grading the 49ers' Offense at the Midway point of the Season
Unlike years past, the San Francisco 49ers’ offense seems to have clarity. That stability is due in most part to the certainty at the quarterback position. Jimmy Garoppolo is the unquestioned franchise quarterback. Garoppolo has taken control of the offense in a way the 49ers haven’t seen in a long time. Barring injury, this season would be the first since 2014 that the 49ers won’t make a change at quarterback.
While Garoppolo might not put up Drew Brees or Matthew Stafford numbers (partially because he doesn’t need to with the successful running game), he has demonstrated he’s more than capable of winning a game. In the 49ers’ eighth win of the season, the Thursday night victory over the Cardinals, Garoppolo had his best game as a pro, throwing four touchdowns on 317 passing yards (his first time surpassing 300 yards this season) and 136.9 passer rating.
If Garoppolo can continue to elevate his game, the offense can become elite. Although Garoppolo is fresh off a stellar performance, head coach Kyle Shanahan will by no means abandon the running game. The outside runs paired with play-action is the bread and butter of this offense, and is the reason (along with the defense) this team is 8-0.
Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida have both been incredibly productive as they split carries, while Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are both quality backups with roles that suit their skills. Coleman and Breida, however, pose an interesting one-two punch that most teams don’t have. Both are incredible athletes with elite speed. If one struggles, the other has effectively taken over the game.
The success on the ground can be directly attributed to the blocking. Tight end George Kittle, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and left tackle Joe Staley are some of the best blockers at their positions. When Staley, Juszczyk and Mike McGlinchey went down, there was an expected drop-off.
That never drop-off never came.
Left tackle Justin Skule, right tackle Daniel Brunskill and tight end Ross Dwelley entered the season as depth, and possible roster cuts. Midway through the season they have proved to be crucial to the team’s success. Although the tackles have been tested, the 49ers’ interior offensive line has been a constant. Left guard Laken Tomlinson has put together two straight weeks of 80.0+ grades according to Pro Football Focus and right guard Mike Person had a quality 74.7 performance against Arizona.
The injured trio are expected back Monday night against Seattle. Their experience and on-field leadership will be a much-needed boost at the midpoint of the season. Yet, the substitutes’ efforts in their absence should not be overlooked. The 49ers were able to overcome the injuries to Staley, Juszczyk and McGlinchey because of a next-man-up mentality. And it also helps to have Shanahan scheming up the offense.
This offensive line is the reason why Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the least pressured quarterbacks in the league. The last group, which gained a recent influx of experience and talent, are the receivers. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, acquired from the Denver Broncos, has already caught two touchdowns for the 49ers in just two weeks. The veteran most recently caught seven passes for 112 yards and a touchdown on Thursday while cementing himself as a go-to receiver.
Garoppolo went to Sanders when it mattered most, completing a fourth-and-1 touchdown to end the first half and a clutch, drive-extending third down completion to help ice the game in the fourth quarter.The acquisition of Sanders has also taken some pressure off Kittle. The Pro Bowl tight end was the only consistent threat in the 49ers’ passing game.
Even when he was unable to get the ball at the volume he did last season, he found other ways (blocking, drawing double teams) to help win games for the 49ers (93.7 PFF). Overall, this season’s San Francisco offense has been one of the franchise’s best from the past decade. With injured starters returning, Sanders and Garoppolo getting more comfortable and Kittle continuing to play at a dominant level, the 49ers should remain in the company of elite NFL offenses.
Final Grade: A-