All eyes have been on Jimmy Garoppolo’s deep passes through the first few San Francisco 49ers practices. We have yet to get through a media session without someone asking a question about the Super Bowl and Garoppolo’s miss at the end of the game. Early returns down the field for Garoppolo have been great. He hit Brandon Aiyuk on a deep pass down the left sideline in stride on Sunday. On Monday, Kendrick Bourne beat Jimmie Ward for a 40-yard completion. Kyle Shanahan was asked who is the best deep threat on the 49ers, and his answer was great:
Usually, your biggest deep threat against Cover 2 zones and stuff is the guy with the fastest 40. It all depends on what coverages you’re going against. If you’re starting against a go route, sometimes the fastest guy is the worst deep threat because the corners know they can run by him, so they back up. Those speed guys don’t always have the skill set to go up and catch the ball.
Sometimes your best deep threat can be the slower guy with the best hands. Guys like Bourne, guys like Jennings, those guys make plays down the field, too on go routes because they have the right hands. No, I don’t have a direct answer, and it depends on the play and coverage.
Shanahan seems more concerned with the opportunity of the deep passes and not so worried about Garoppolo improving:
When you get an opportunity when the defense allows you to go deep, that you don’t miss it and take it. Defenses rarely give you that opportunity. You don’t just call a play that says, ‘go deep.’ The more we can generate that in practice, the more reps our WRs and QB get at it. The more opportunities we give, obviously, the better we’ll be. Hopefully, we can generate a lot more of that in camp. We’re not going to avoid any part of the field. We’re going to take the part of the field they’re giving us.
Shanahan referenced losing three receivers before practice started multiple times. His frustration was palpable. When asked about the two recently signed free agent receivers and Jaron Brown, Shanahan dismissed the idea that they were simply camp bodies, citing their experience in the NFL. The odds are still against them to make the roster, even with Hurd’s injury. Here’s Shanahan on the latest additions at receiver:
“You need both of those. First of all, they’ve got to go through the same protocol. It’s tough to get guys in. They’ve got to go through all that testing, so they can’t do it right away. It’s very tough when you’re down to 80 and you lose three receivers before you start practicing. Those guys count until you IR them, which there’s only one guy we can fully IR, now that it was his ACL, to not bring back. So, we’ll be able to get one more number back from that. First thing we need is the numbers, but when you have those guys who have a good chance of playing Week One and making your team, guys like Deebo, guys like Richie, and they’re not going to be there, especially Richie, we know. You better bring in other guys that, yeah, we need numbers, but also who have the ability to play in this league and beat people out. That’s why it was important, that’s why we felt fortunate to get J.J. and Tavon when they were out there.
We needed numbers right away, but we also need some guys who have the skillset to challenge the guys we already have here. Those guys have proven it on other teams. They proved it coming out of college and so far, they’ve proved that they’re capable of having a chance to earn a spot.”
Keep an eye out to see if either of the three, assuming Brown signs, work their way onto the first-team during practice.