Jimmy Garoppolo is back in the fold as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.
The “break glass in case of emergency” situation for the 49ers has paid off. But now, the offense will change to a degree.
Running the football heavily is still going to be a staple of this team to make passing easier as the season continues. However, certain players benefited from having Trey Lance as the starter, while others didn’t. The same can be said with Garoppolo taking over. There is one player who benefits the most, while another who benefits the least with him starting.
Player who benefits
I have to lump Deebo Samuel into this. Samuel was always going to be utilized as a running back regardless of who the quarterback was. But with Lance, his usage as a wide receiver was a work in progress. The two couldn’t find their niche with each other in the aerial game. At least, that was evident in training camp, which translated to the lack of usage as a true receiver in the two games Lance played in. Part of that probably has to do with Samuel’s late integration into training camp.
Either way, the two weren’t on the same page as opposed to other receivers. With Lance, Samuel was getting sent on go-routes or anything that required him to go deeper than 15 yards in practice. While having Samuel run those routes on occasions is fine, that isn’t necessarily his strength. Shallow crossers, slants, digs, and everything within 10 yards are where he dominates.
Now that Garoppolo is the starter, Samuel can or should see his running back usage eased up. He now can be a two-dimensional player with Garoppolo that he couldn’t yet with Lance. Going forward, Samuel lining up wide now means something and not just a decoy or blocking.
Player who doesn’t benefit
It has to be Brandon Aiyuk. No one stole the show more than Aiyuk throughout training camp. 2022 was supposed to be his breakout season. It went from being a bold prediction to an expectation. Having spent the whole offseason working with Lance, the two built a formidable connection that was only going to get better as the season progresses.
But all that work and connecting in games gets put on hold for Aiyuk with Lance out for the season. Now he has to get used to running everything under 20 yards again and try to be impactful with the ball in his hands. And while he will be good at that, his abilities get capped with Garoppolo as the quarterback. The only way this can turn into a salvageable situation is if Garoppolo is still that “shot taker” he was in relief of Lance against the Seahawks.
He threw an absolute dime to Aiyuk deep down the field to the sideline that Aiyuk completely whiffed. If Garoppolo does more of that than last season, then Aiyuk can be more lethal. It’s just a HUGE if since that was the game plan for Lance he was operating in. Regardless, Aiyuk had more synchronization with Lance than he ever had with Garoppolo, so he’ll take a step back.