The San Francisco 49ers offense took a big step forward the final five games of the season with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. However, NFL analyst Matt Harmon had some intriguing thoughts on where Garoppolo can improve, and how the 49ers could potentially improve the talent around him to help.
The NFL is using more and more of their Next Gen Stats to break down performance, and Harmon discussed the need for Garoppolo to improve on his deeper passes. Per Harmon, on passes that traveled ten yards or less in the air, he had a passer rating of 112.7 (vs. a league average of 90.8), while on passes that traveled 20 or more yards through the air, he had a passer rating of 24.3 (vs. a league average of 78.1). He then broke down some film of the 49ers issues on those deep balls, including on contested passes.
The next question Harmon addressed was how the 49ers could approach it. He talked about some of the wide receivers in free agency the team might consider. Allen Robinson is a regularly mentioned option, but Harmon focused on Paul Richardson.
“[T]he good thing about Paul Richardson is not only does he win deep passes, he wins in tight windows. He actually averaged 27.3 yards per reception on tight-window throws, Next Gen Stats shows us — that’s exactly what we saw on the film. Those are the types of things that the 49ers need to work on.”
Highlighting an under the radar free agent the 49ers could target to help take their offense to another level pic.twitter.com/GTTrHnHjlY— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) February 15, 2018
Harmon thinks with an addition like Richardson, the 49ers very well end up with a top-10 offense in 2018. He pointed to the return of Pierre Garçon and the continued development of George Kittle. The pass catchers will also include Marquise Goodwin coming off a breakout year, Trent Taylor looking to build on a strong rookie season in the slot, and even Kendrick Bourne, who showed signs of progress as a UDFA.
They still need to figure out who will join Matt Breida in the backfield, but the weapons are there for the offense to take a big next step. Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo have talked about getting to strip things down this offseason and really get comfortable in the offense. There are no guarantees how this will play out, but given how the season ended, it’s easy to be excited about the potential heading into 2018.