Those of you around for this entire season know that we’ve been enjoying Brian Baldinger’s play breakdowns on Twitter. The “Baldy Breakdowns” as they are called by the hashtag have been something insightful and smart this year. So many takes or breakdowns either go over your head with jargon or just don’t make much sense, but Baldinger is able to diagnose and identify problems with teams and communicate it in a way everyone can understand. He was gushing over the 49ers to start the season, but once Jimmy Garoppolo went down, he turned to be a bit disappointed, comparing the 49ers defense to the Keystone Cops at one point.
Well, the 49ers are back in Baldinger’s good graces and he gave us three Baldy Breakdowns. The first one is Nick Mullens:
.@49ers @NickMullens was impressive yesterday snapping a 10 game losing steak to the streaking @Seahawks . Let’s start by asking this one simple question: What can’t he do? #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/W4afSHEirx— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 17, 2018
Mullens hasn’t slowed down since taking the starting job. He had a couple nasty games after his huge day against the Oakland Raiders, but now he’s growing into the role with experience and showing that he’s not just a backup quarterback, but a possible starter for the future. Baldinger makes a great point about the hits that Mullens took—and it’s huge. So many times you see the hits and pressures that happen to quarterbacks—young ones come to mind—that throw off their game later on. Mullens is able to function in the pocket and unlike C.J. Beathard, get the ball out seconds quicker before getting demolished.
The 49ers may have a backup quarterback competition in 2019, but they also will have some decisions to make if Mullens plays lights out the next two games. A team could come with an attractive offer for Mullens, due to his youth and inexpensive UDFA contract. Given the nature of Garoppolo’s injury, the 49ers may hold onto Mullens for insurance in case something happens to Jimmy G, but it’s a nice position to be in.
Besides Mullens, the Pettis love is nice. Pettis’ season has been underrated at best and he has the tools to be a huge receiving threat next year, maybe even THE threat. He’s already having better rookie seasons than some No. 1 wide receivers in the league, so give him some time.
The next breakdown is DeForest Buckner:
.@49ers #49ers @DeForestBuckner did any defensive player at any position on any team have a better day than #Buckner? An absolute “Monster”. You build a team brick by brick and Buckner is a whole bunch of bricks. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/5dr3gjlDvW— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 17, 2018
It’s safe to say that Buckner has figured things out and is a star in the NFL. He’ll be looking for a monster payday soon, and the 49ers shouldn’t have any problem obliging.
The one thing I thought of as I watched Buckner be a beast on Sunday was just how much more threatening he’ll be once the 49ers make the predictive first round pick and get an edge-rusher. It might not be Nick Bosa, but they’ll get somebody and if they can (finally) get the edge situation cleared up, it will take a lot of the double/triple teams off Buckner and offensive lines will have to focus on the edge as well.
If you put Buckner, Solomon Thomas (Play him inside on pass rush downs, darn it!) , Arik Armstead, and edge rusher-guy on that line, you might have something special. There’s not much more on Buckner to say that already hasn’t been said other than his omission from the Pro Bowl (oh...yay, he’s an alternate) is nothing short of disappointing.
Speaking of Solomon Thomas...
.@49ers @SollyThomas90 drew 3 holding calls v @Seahawks that nullified 3 first downs and kept the #Seahawks in a crypt that they never got out of. Let’s play all 16 before we finish our evaluations. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/VOiBlCUN8o— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 18, 2018
I know I’ve been in the minority where I’ve said Thomas needs time. I don’t disagree that being taken third overall brings expectations, but I’ve also had some empathy with Thomas since he’s been playing out of position half the time in 2018 and he’s had some personal issues to go through.
If Seattle is any indication, Thomas needs to remain on the inside. Personally, I’d put Thomas on the edge for obvious run-downs and then kick him inside on the three technique for pass rushing downs (which was the plan Stanford had for his final year of college before he declared for the draft). The only time Thomas should be outside is for obvious run downs, and even then err on moving him inside an awful lot. Never, ever, ever, ever should he be on the edge with the intention to sack the quarterback unless it’s something the offense dictates by surprise.
Baldinger is right, Thomas generated holding calls which aren’t going to appear on the stat sheet, and those holding calls helped dictate the game. Thomas may be a bit of a late bloomer but he’s not a bust. His first two seasons may fall a bit below expectations, but once again, if the 49ers can just get that edge rusher, maybe he’ll have an easier time getting somewhere.
As far as Baldinger’s breakdowns, I just wish I could be in the room to ask some probing questions, because he’s far more entertaining and insightful than some of the over-produced shows you see on network television.