06 Oct Who is to Blame?
It’s been a rugged start to the 49ers’ season so far. After two dominating wins to both the New York Jets and Giants, the team has seemingly lost two lay-up games to the Arizona Cardinals, and Philadelphia Eagles.
This season has not been kind to the 49ers, as a bevvy of injuries to key players like Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Raheem Mostert has thrown a wrench into the team’s “Revenge Tour” in their journey back to Super Bowl glory.
Injuries are one thing. Team’s can adjust accordingly and game plan around them. However, what happens when the only man who can work around these injuries, is hurt himself?
Kyle Shanahan’s offense is meant for QBs who can establish rhythm, something that Garoppolo is fantastic at doing. With his absence however, it has put backup QB Nick Mullens under the spotlight.
Mullens does not have the release, arm strength, and pocket awareness Garoppolo ultimately has to help the offense move. Mullens has flashed as a solid QB, but he is not the complete package. The standard that is being held against him is high, as Shanahan has attempted to make his job as easy as possible.
Needless to say, the team has been treading water with Mullens at the helm. He is 1-1 as a starter this season, throwing for 543 yards, with 2 passing TDs and 2 INTs amidst his stretch of play.
It may be too early to judge, but the offensive line play, meshed with Mullens’ most recent start against the Eagles (he got benched) did not bode well together.
Currently, the 49ers OL ranks 31st as run-blocking unit, according to Football Outsiders, and 21st in pass-protection. The unit has allowed QBs to get hit 40 times, which is the most in the league. In comparison, the unit had allowed only 11 QB hits at the same time last season.
Again, Garoppolo’s release on his throws allow the OL to block for roughly 2-3 seconds. Mullens requires more time to let plays develop, as he doesn’t have the strength Jimmy does to fit the ball into tight windows.
With the current state of the team, it feels fortunate that their record stands at 2-2. However, without Garoppolo, the team can only go as far as the OL can carry. The blocking has not allowed run plays to develop, which in turn, fails to set up play-action, a staple of Shanahan’s offense.
Much is to be determined with the team, as it is still early in the season, and teams are finally working themselves into regular season form. If the 49ers however, continue the poor OL play, even with Garoppolo’s eventual return, it may be a long season for the former NFC champions.