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The 49ers can look at the Colts offense for hope heading into the 2019 season

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Comparing numbers from two teams that had a quarterback returning from injury.

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images

As we near the start of training camp, I find myself looking at the teams from last year to see who the San Francisco 49ers will end up like in 2019. I think I’ve found the best-case scenario.

The 2018 Indianapolis Colts.

This is dependent on the obvious: Jimmy Garoppolo is a franchise quarterback. Andrew Luck was the number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and was thought of as one of the best quarterbacks to come into the league in over a decade. When Luck returned from injury in 2018, the Colts went to another level. Believe it or not, Garoppolo’s 2017 season was better than Luck has ever had using DVOA. Let’s take a look at some other numbers.

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Stat PPG Yards Per Play ANY/A Scoring % Turnover % Red-zone TD & 3rd Down % Sack % Explosive Play %
Stat PPG Yards Per Play ANY/A Scoring % Turnover % Red-zone TD & 3rd Down % Sack % Explosive Play %
Colts '17 30th 32nd 25th 22nd 29th 31st 18th 32nd 21st
49ers '18 21st 13th 22nd 16th 31st 32nd 18th 24th 2nd
Colts '18 6th 7th 9th 6th 23rd 5th 1st 1st 26th

You can find all of these numbers on PFR and explosive play percentage on Sharp Football’s website.

As a team, the Niners are significantly better heading into 2019 at their skill positions than the Colts were heading into 2018. Marlon Mack was an unknown at running back. Indianapolis chose to invest heavily on the offensive line, and that paid off for them. The Colts had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL in 2018. Short-yardage situations helped the Colts convert third downs at the best rate in the NFL.

What to expect

The similarities between the teams are there, though. It’s not realistic to expect the 49ers to jump into the top-five in red-zone and third-down percentage. Getting into the top-10 in each category would be more than enough.

Luck propelled the Colts offense into the upper echelon of the NFL and made them elite. Will Jimmy G be able to do the same? He doesn’t have the same support up front, though the Niners offensive line is far from a disgrace. The explosive plays speak for themselves. That’s a credit to the mastermind Kyle Shanahan is. I expect him to take the pressure off Garoppolo by letting the speed on offense do the work for him. Get the ball out quick, and let the players win in space.

The key is efficiency. If Garoppolo can ensure the offense stays ahead of the chains and limit his turnover-worthy plays, the offense will produce an elite level. The defense received the majority of headlines this offseason, but it’s the offense that will need to up their execution if the 49ers are going to make the playoffs indeed.