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Jimmy Garoppolo on the 49ers’ receivers, improving the deep ball, and Jerick McKinnon

The Niners’ QB opened up about how the offense is looking through the opening week of camp.


He’s going to have a chance to silence the doubters soon. Despite leading the San Francisco 49ers to a 13-3 record, and a Super Bowl appearance in his first full season as a starter, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo still has his fair share of critics.

One key for Garoppolo this offseason is that he was able to focus on sharpening his skills rather than rehabbing a knee injury, which is what he spent a bulk of the lead-up to the 2019 season doing.

The 28-year-old talked to the media after practice and opened up about several topics, including how the Niners’ receivers are performing at practice minus Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd.

If Samuel is forced to miss some games while recovering from a Jones fracture, rookie Brandon Aiyuk will have an added level of pressure to produce. Garoppolo is impressed with the first-round pick so far.

“Yeah, he’s been good. There’s flashes that you can see. He has a good feel for feeling the zones and when it’s man-to-man, he knows when to break off routes and just do what he has to do to get open. It’s a real natural instinct, just running routes for him. It’s really cool to throw routes to a guy like that. He sees the field very similar to a quarterback and it makes my job very easy.”

Underachieving receiver Dante Pettis turned some heads with a strong showing in practice on Tuesday. If he can fulfill his potential, Pettis will be a valuable piece for head coach Kyle Shanahan. Garoppolo touched on what he has seen from the 2018 second-round pick thus far.

“Yeah, he’s been coming along. It’s very encouraging, just the physicality that he’s playing with, the competitiveness that he’s bringing. You love to see that and it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to keep it rolling. I think our whole group, though, as a receiving core has done a really good job so far.”

One common criticism of Garoppolo is his lack of accuracy on deep passes. He just missed former Niner Emmanuel Sanders on a long-bomb in the Super Bowl. If he connected on it, the 49ers may have captured their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

“I’m always working on it. I like where I’m at with it. I think we’ve got guys who are able to run those deeper routes, post goes, things like that. As long as I can get it out there for them, we’ll be in a good spot. It’s always been one of those things that, it is what it is. I think we’ve got the guys to do it this year.”

Garoppolo didn’t have a consistent pass-catching threat out of the backfield last season. Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman are competent, but having Jerick McKinnon back in the fold will provide Shanahan with a new piece to draw up plays for.

“Jet brings a little bit of everything. He’s a unique running back ... He sees the field very similar to a quarterback and that’s a cool part, because when it’s a soft zone, he’ll feel the spot and get to the spot where you want him to and he sees it the same way as me. We could talk the same language, and all the backs, they do a great job of that stuff.”

Atlanta Falcons’ QBs Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub saw a sharp rise in production during their second seasons with Shanahan running the offense. Garoppolo says he uses footage of both quarterbacks to help sharpen his game.

“We watch those guys a ton. We watch a bunch of old tape from ourselves a couple of years ago, but there’s examples that go way back in this offense. This offense has been around for a while, but I can’t put my finger on anything specific. I think it’s more of just the understanding of how everything ties together with the run, the pass. Trying to make everything look the same but different at the same time. I think that’s the magic of the offense. Kyle does a great job with that, thinking a couple of plays ahead and putting you in a good situation. I think when we’re thinking the same way and we’re on the same page, that’s when we’re really clicking.”