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NN Mailbag: Garoppolo’s development, critical position groups, wondering about wideouts and more

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Addressing your 49ers comments, questions and concerns before the 49ers take on the Bengals in Week 2.

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers began the year 1-0 with their sloppy, albeit entertaining 31-17 victory over Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. The team now seeks to earn their second consecutive road win with Sunday’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. The 49ers spent the last week practicing in Youngstown, Ohio to become acclimated with the Eastern weather and timezone.

I’m back with my weekly mailbag column. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for next week’s mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.

Is everyone overeating to QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s Week 1 performance? Cameron

Garoppolo has only started 11 games in his six-year career in the NFL. He has less starting experience than the likes of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen. There will be peaks and valleys in Garoppolo’s development as the 49ers’ franchise quarterback, some of which we’ve already seen. It’s fair to be critical but do so within the context of Garoppolo’s limited experience, especially in a system as complex as Kyle Shanahan’s. His performance against the Buccaneers wasn’t stellar, and that pick-six was as cringe-worthy as it gets. On the other hand, Garoppolo also made some encouraging throws that included three touchdowns passes, two that were called back to penalties.

Can QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s processing speed improve? Yossarian

Absolutely. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was in the NFL for seven years before Shanahan was his offensive coordinator, and Ryan still struggled in their first season together, despite his experience. Ryan improved the next year drastically and won NFL MVP during the team’s Super Bowl run. Garoppolo will only benefit from more time in Shanahan’s system, especially with his limited starting experience - processing speed included.

Which positions need to step up in order for the 49ers to have a playoff shot? Jay

Terrific question, Jay. Of course, the cliche answer would be to say that all of the positions need to pull their weight in order for the 49ers to have a shot at the post-season. While that is true, I’ll pick some positions that I feel need to improve for the team to have a shot. The first is the defensive front and pass rush. The 49ers have invested too much into that group for it not to be successful. The secondary would be next on my list. As the weakest position group last season, the pressure is on for the cornerbacks and safeties to perform as a whole. And of course, quarterback. The 49ers aren’t going anywhere without solid play from Jimmy Garoppolo. In a surprising twist, the defense made up for the offense’s shortcomings against the Buccaneers, but that can’t become a trend.

Who steps up as the 49ers’ leading receiver? Cadmus

The 49ers’ receiving corps is a mystery to me right now. I, like many, expected Dante Pettis to be that guy, but a lackluster training camp and a groin injury have dampened my expectations. Shanahan said Pettis had a great week of practice, so we’ll see if that translates against the Bengals. Rookie Deebo Samuel looked solid in limited action on Sunday, but a false start and fumble both proved costly. Richie James’ lone reception went for a touchdown on an impressive route deep. Week 1 didn’t do much to establish the pecking order, though, and it may take a few games before we begin to see a leader emerge from the group.

How can the 49ers fix their issues with penalties? Brandon

The 49ers racked up 11 penalties for 87 yards against Tampa Bay. It’s a tough problem to fix, considering most are committed during the heat of the moment. If Shanahan wants to lessen the laundry, he’ll need to devote serious hours toward discipline and technique to hammer home the point. It’s tough to find that kind of time when the majority of the week is spent game-planning for the next matchup. If the 49ers offer a repeat performance of Week 1, where three scores were negated to penalties, you can expect Shanahan to make it a priority.

Will the “Wide 9” negatively impact DL DeForest Buckner’s productivity? Zman

Buckner was quiet against the Bucs, totaling just two tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. Pro Football Focus gave Buckner a 51.8 overall grade in Week 1, a far cry from his 81.4 overall grade in 2018. The 49ers’ use of the “Wide 9” puts additional space between the interior defensive lineman, meaning Buckner is likely to encounter far more double teams than he’s accustomed. The Bengals gave up five sacks and a handful of pressures against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1. I expect Bucker to make some noise on Sunday.

When’s WR Trent Taylor making his debut? Brandon

It sounds like the 49ers expect to have Taylor back after the bye week for the team’s Week 5 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Taylor, who fractured his foot late in training camp, put together an impressive offseason before his injury. He was the 49ers’ most targeted wideout throughout camp and should resume an active role when he returns from injury.

Is Week 5 a realistic debut for WR Jalen Hurd? Michael

That it is, Michael. Shanahan said on Friday that he expects Hurd back in Week 5 along with Taylor and running back Tevin Coleman. The 6-foot-5 rookie receiver has been sidelined since his two-touchdown game against the Dallas Cowboys in the 49ers’ preseason opener.

K Robbie Gould limped off after a field goal in Week 1. Is he injured? John

You know it’s hot when your kicker is dehydrated. Gould’s limp was nothing more than a cramp after spending the afternoon in Florida’s intense heat and humidity. The 49ers also lost running back Matt Breida and cornerback K’Waun Williams to dehydration on Sunday.

Where’s the best burger in Fresno? Alyce

There are so many great burgers in Fresno, but if I can only choose one, check out Colorado Grill. There’s a couple of them in town, and they’re both very good. When a burger is called a “Boulder,” you know you’re in for a treat.