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Grading the 49ers offense halfway through the season

We all know George Kittle has been awesome, but what about the rest of the offense?

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

On Wednesday, we went over a few team awards. Today, we’ll go over both sides of the ball, starting on offense. The 49ers have been very efficient on offense. Because the team hasn’t been as spectacular as the defense, most of the outside world believe this the weak part of the team. We’ve seen an offensive explosion in the last two weeks. I’m not so sure it’s as simple as giving your quarterback a reliable wide receiver, but it sure feels that way. Let’s start with Jimmy.

Quarterback: B

Jimmy Garoppolo has played well in his role this year. If I had to describe his play in two words, it’d be “effectively efficient.” To me, the most impressive part about Garoppolo has been his mobility. He has been fantastic buying time in the pocket, evading a rusher, and finding a receiver. Sometimes there are wow plays, other times it’s Garoppolo avoiding a sack and throwing the ball away. 2nd & 10>2nd & 17. He’s done a nice job keeping the offense ahead of schedule. That’s what you want at quarterback.

Volume stats are overrated. These stats paint a better picture. Garoppolo leads the league in throws that have gone for first downs per attempt. That’s what I mean when I say ahead of schedule. Garoppolo is also number one in percentage of throws on third down that go for first downs. You want a quarterback that can convert, and that’s captain James.

If Garoppolo continues to play like he has the past couple of weeks, by the end of the season, it’ll be an easy A. When the bullets are flying; he’s at his best. We still see one of those “oh no” throws once a game. The more football he plays, the more comfortable he’s getting. If he cuts that out, San Francisco is in good shape.

Running back: B+

The trio of Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert have impressed this season. Another reason I believe Mostert deserves more carries. He’s one of the top rushers in the league on first down. He’s averaging six yards per carry on first down, which ranks him fifth in the league. Breida isn’t too far behind at 5.1, which places him 12th.

The three-headed monster is all about big plays, and that’s why I gave them a B+. Breida has 16 rushes of ten or more yards, while the other two both have nine. PFF has a breakaway percentage stat, which tracks the number of rushes a runner has that go more than 15 yards. For players with more than 40 carries on the season, Breida ranks fifth at 45%. That is mind-blowing. He’s a joy to watch. If you’re a junkie and re-watch the 49ers games like myself, watch Breida’s carries in slow-mo. He’s moving at a different speed than everyone else even when you slow it down.

Coleman is no slouch. He’s in 10th place at 39.5%, while Mostert is 17th at 32%. Just for fun, Frank Gore is at 32% as well. The 49ers rushing attack allows their running backs 1-on-1 opportunities, and they’re making the most of them.

Wide receivers: C-

If not for Emmanuel Sanders, man. For the first six games, the receiving corps left a lot to be desired. There was always going to be inconsistencies when you roll into the season with a rookie and a second-year player as your top options. Even veteran Marquise Goodwin hasn’t been a reliable target for Garoppolo. The issue isn’t the plays we see on TV. It’s the routes when the receivers aren’t targeted, that has to be frustrating for Kyle Shanahan. This offense runs a lot of “return” routes, but footing has been as issue. Separating in general has, and that likely led to the team acquiring Sanders, who has been god-sent for the offense.

There isn’t much to say about Sanders that already hasn’t been said. He puts Deebo Samuel and Dante Pettis in roles where they don’t have to be the guy on third down or when the defense knows they’re getting the ball. For now, that’s what’s needed.

Tight end: A+

Before we talk about that other guy, Ross Dwelley deserves all the credit in the world this season. He’s been the de facto fullback, and the drop off hasn’t been substantial enough for Shanahan to resort to 11 personnel predominantly. Dwelley has allowed the offense to continue to thrive off 12/21 personnel, which keeps defenses in their base defense. That lets the running backs outrun linebackers and the other tight end to be matched up against the defenses third linebacker. As a blocker, Dwelley has shown effort, which is all you can ask.

As for George Kittle, he’s having a decent season. He’s top-five in just about every stat you can imagine. He leads the league in yards after the catch and forced missed tackles. We do not see the focus drops that have haunted Kittle in years past. It helps that he’s essentially a sixth offensive lineman on the field. He’s a nightmare matchup for anyone.

Offensive line: A

Context is key, and when you can have the success on offense the Niners have had without your two starting tackles, it’s tough to be down on this unit. Running the ball is a team effort. San Francisco is eighth in adjusted line yards. Even without Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey in the lineup for the majority of the season, the offense is still top-7 when rushing outside of the tackle this season. Shanahan has done a fine job of mixing up his run schemes to fit Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule’s strength. Coaching matters, but the players have executed as well.

Individually, you don’t see Brunskill beat often in pass protection He’s played 125 pass-blocking snaps, and only allowed one sack and zero quarterback hits. That’s superb. Both Laken Tomlinson and Weston Richburg haven’t allowed a sack all season. Richburg has allowed only two quarterback hits, while Tomlinson has allowed one.

Mike Person is the “worst,” but he’s only allowed one sack and two quarterback hits. Garoppolo has aided the line by avoiding sacks and getting rid of the ball, but it can’t be understated how well this unit has played in both the running and passing game. Much better than most of us expected before the season. I don’t think anyone imagined there would be this type of consistency without Staley and McGlinchey.

It’s a team sport, and the 49ers are playing like one.