Halfway Through the 2020 Season: The Jeckyll and Hyde 49ers

At the halfway point in one of a singularly frustrating season, in the most tempestuous year in recent memory, the 49er have a completely apt record of 4-4. This record perfectly reflects the Jeckyll and Hyde team that has dominated in the wins like the 2019 49ers, and also looked awful in the losses like the 2015 49ers. The team is obviously decimated by injury, and there’ll be a separate article exploring all those injured players and the impact on the team this year and for the future.

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The Seahawks brought the pressure! The run game struggled to get going vs 8 man boxes, and the O line gave up 15 pressures, with center Hroniss Grasu responsible for 5 of them. On Jimmy’s 20 drop backs, there were 12 blitzes and he threw under pressure 7 times. When Jimmy throws under pressure, the results are…mixed. I’m reading a lot of “Jimmy’s time in SF are over” reactions on social media. This might be the case, and even though Garoppolo was obviously nagged by his ankle injury, he missed a lot of open players downfield and made inaccurate throws, to the extent that, once again, Mullens looked comparatively sharp and fearless, getting the ball to receivers more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. Kyle Posey of Niners Nation broke down seven throws from Jimmy on Sunday (linked below) that illustrate it perfectly.

Clearly Jimmy was hurt and that that impacted his performance, but once the 49ers were 2 scores down, I knew we were in trouble, as the offence with Jimmy is not built for big comebacks; and I doubt I was the only one thinking this. Now Jimmy and George are headed for IR, and we’ll be discussing whether CJ or BDN should be starting. With the trade deadline coming in the next few hours, it will be interesting to see if Lynch sees the advantage in bringing a new QB in mid season again, or whether there’ll be a rookie QB in the building next year. Or will it be option C, stick with Jimmy, and help him get to the deeper routes earlier in his progressions.

This is what we have learned: Aiyuk is the real deal, and his pairing with Deebo reminds me a lot of Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. We know how George Kittle is, and that he was under utilised against the Seahawks, including an awful miss from QB1. RB depth is great, even considering the success that RBs have in a Shanahan system (See Mike’s success in Denver), with Jeff Wilson and JaMycal Hasty showing real talent. Kyle Juszczyck is a real offensive weapon who can do it all. CB Jason Verrett is a baller and his comeback story is as stirring as any I’ve seen. LB Fred Warner is the best in the game. Safety depth is good, as is Nickel – I remain a big fan of Jamar Taylor. There are some players who are more missed than others (get better soon Deebo).

Playing against efficient offences, where points are scored with a few big plays, remains the biggest challenge for the 2020 49ers. Unfortunately, the next games are vs Packers and then Saints. This requires better in game adjustments and defence identification (ie no Wildcat with 0 coverage: call a timeout!) and the QB to be making good reads, and accurate on time throws if there’s to be a chance of success. Also, more pressure from the 4 down linemen, with some blitzing sprinkled in. Even with Verrett playing so well, pressuring the opposing QB is hugely important to getting off the field on 3rd down.

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The outlook isn’t completely bleak; so far the 49ers have outscored opponents 208 – 173. But without the ability to pass reliably beyond 10 yards, the O line must compete like they have done, especially against blitzes. Trent Williams has been solid, not giving up a single pressure against the Seahawks, and the group has shown cohesiveness, but not yet consistency, and that is important in managing pressure and opening rushing lanes. It’s frustrating to see so many elite athletes and world class players being scuppered by the limits of the QB, the line or the play calling. There is still a lot of football to play, but those three aspects must improve, or the 49ers will need a new offensive identity, which could be tested with a backup QB coming in – both have shown a willingness to attempt deeper passes.

Do you think it’s time for a change, or are these fixable traits? Tweet me @TaggSimon

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