Been reading a lot of articles on how the 49ers will use all the new toys in the receivers room this year and at times it seems a little confusing. Deebo is almost universally thought to be replacing Garcon but the question is what position does Garcon play exactly. Some people say he is an X, others say he is the Z. The reality is in a Shanahan offense everyone plays every where. I watched this YouTube on the Vikings game last year since it was the only game I know everyone was relatively healthy (spoiler it’s quite depressing can’t believe we dropped 3 sure tds passes and fumbled inside the one, we should have won) https://youtu.be/bNHVr4NMMOs and Garcon lined up all over the formation. So did Pettis.
Anyway so for me the easiest way to set this right is try and decide who best fits the criteria for X and Z in base so that would be their base position. Now I went to a few sites to make sure I had my facts straight and the main points with X is they are tethered to the line of scrimmage and are not allowed to go in motion. This means he will almost always have a corner lined up directly in front of him and he is the prime target for press coverage. So this receiver must be able to be beat the press either with strength or quickness and should at least be a threat to the safety over the top so he can’t shade to the other side or underneath the formation. The X is usually your best receiver or the alpha of the group. Think Julio, Deandre, or Thomas. He doesn’t have to be a speed demon but he has to be a threat at every level.
Now the Z on the other hand is off the line scrimmage and usually on the same side of the formation as the Y/slot receiver and/or TE(who is also called Y in 2 receiver formations). He lines up off the line scrimmage and can be motioned across the formation. This guy IS usually your speed demon because you want him to draw coverage away from your underneath Y routes. But still must have the requisite toughness to do the intermediate stuff. Now as I said you usually want your X to be your best receiver but some teams do it differently with Tyreek Hill and Brandon Cooks being prime examples of the Z being the main threat.
Looking at the criteria for both positions, to me Garcon fits best at the X because at this stage he didn’t scare anyone vertically but he could still regularly toast a corner in man. Exhibit A https://youtu.be/P-qfj6BvekU. Goodwin on the other hand is tailor made for the Z.
Deebo seems like he has the alpha mentality I just don’t get from Pettis. And he seems a better fit at X and Pettis is probably better suited for the slot in my eyes. For me the best lineup we have right now in three receiver sets would be Deebo at X, Goodwin at Z, and Pettis at Y. Taylor would be more of a third and intermediate option while Mathews (who I think could play X til Deebo is 100% ready) and Hurd would be better suited for red zone duty.
But like I said all this is moot cause Shanahan plays all these guys everywhere and on any given snap they could be anywhere. That’s what makes us dangerous when we clicking. And looking at the Vikings clip above I feel better about JG thinking he got off to slow start. He really didn’t, his receivers and OL(because of injury) let him down. He could have easily had a 4 Td game and we win going away. Hopefully we have better execution this season and please keep the injuries to a minimum. It’s going to be exciting to watch.