State of The Franchise
The San Francisco 49ers went into their bye week with only a single win to their credit for the second season in a row. As they get set to kick off their final six games of the season on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the state of the franchise.
New General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan decided that they would completely rebuild the roster with guys who fit their vision. As a result, the team opened the season with 30 out of their 53 players being new to the roster. This was by far the most of any team in the league. Unfortunately, up to this point we haven’t seen all of that turnover translate to additional success on the field.
Despite becoming the first team in NFL history to lose 5 games in a row by 3 points or less during the first 6 weeks of the season the 49ers have seen only a slight improvement in point differential from a season ago, -8.6 points per game compared to -10.7. This improvement can be attributed to a defense that has given up 4 points per game fewer than it had a season ago. The downside to this however, is that the offense, Kyle Shanahan’s baby has actually seen a decrease of nearly 2 points per game than it did last year under Chip Kelly.
Many will point to the rash of injuries faced by the team as a reason for this decrease, however only 2 of the players lost to injury for the season were projected starters on the offensive side, Pierre Garcon and Joshua Garnett.
The offense has for the most part been extremely inconsistent, and most of that can be attributed to leading the league in dropped passes along with an extreme unbalanced offense that is near the top of the league in called passes despite having a quarterback rating near the bottom of the league and near the top in sacks allowed.
The 49ers best offensive weapon has been the lightly used Carlos Hyde. Hyde is in the final year of his contract and should be the featured back. Perhaps the team is choosing to not showcase him fully in an effort to keep his salary demands low. The offense would be a lot more productive if they chose to utilize Hyde over these last 6 weeks. His 2 long runs are what kept the 49ers in the game during their visit to Seattle in week 2.
The quarterback position appears to be set for at least the next year after the trace for Jimmy Garoppolo on the day before the trading deadline. Lynch and Shanahan have stated a number of times that they feel Garoppolo is going to be their franchise quarterback, yet he hasn’t been on the field so far in game action in a 49ers uniform and C J Beathard has been named the starter for the upcoming game against Seattle. The front office appears to be very much afraid of Garoppolo not playing at a high level and the potential backlash from fans and media. Garoppolo has played 6 quarters as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He is a guy that needs reps to improve. Wouldn’t it be much better for the 49ers if they had him take those reps now during a lost season instead of next year in September?
The wide receiver group is also in need of an overhaul. As bad as many felt this group was back in the Harbaugh days, this group has gotten even worse. It is led by a veteran number two receiver in Pierre Garcon and a veteran who was more of a number 4 type than anything else as the other starter in Marquise Goodwin. Trent Taylor was brought in during the draft, but appears to be limited to an underneath role. This is an area that must be addressed during the draft and free agency next year for improvement.
The 49ers have made strides on the defensive side of the ball, but still have a ways to go there as well. Despite a number of injuries to starters , the lack a true pass rush threat, and the play in the secondary being spotty at best, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has put together a unit that has shown improvement. The injuries could actually bode well for the 49ers in 2018 as they will have many backups who gained a lot of extra playing time this season. Look for guys like Tank Carradine, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Arik Armstead and Malcolm Smith to give a boost to this unit.
With a focus on the offense in the upcoming draft and a few key additions through free agency the 49ers could be find themselves in position to make a run at a .500 record and potential playoff berth next season.
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