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49ers mailbag: How much did the lack of preseason games affect the team in Week 1

Responding to your questions after the first week of the season

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The tone of your questions after a loss compared to a victory is stark. After the San Francisco 49ers fell to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, fans have taken on “the sky is falling approach,” which doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

How much do you think the lack of preseason games affected the team last week? -Hubcap Dave

This has been one of the bigger excuses among fans. For one, every team in the NFL didn’t play a preseason game. Secondly, to a man, each player on the 49ers last week said that they were able to get more out of the controlled scrimmages the team had throughout August than they were a preseason game. Kyle Juszczyk said the scrimmages felt like live reps.

The reason the 49ers lost was not because of the preseason. It was due to mistakes in every phase of the game.

I know this is an overreaction after one week, but if Jimmy G keeps playing like he did in Week 1, do you think we could see Shanahan get frustrated enough to make a switch at QB? -Flynn West

Garoppolo would have to play like he did Sunday for the next handful of games for Shanahan to pull the plug on him. If you read the reports coming out of training camp, Garoppolo played the same way in August as he did in Week 1. We chalked it up to it being “practice,” but I mentioned how forming bad habits during practice is tough to break out of when it comes to the game. Those same issues showed up Sunday.

Both John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have been adamant that Garoppolo is their guy, but the way his contract is set up, and the fact that there hasn’t been an extension yet, always made it feel like 2020 was going to be a full-season tryout. The front office has been aggressive since the day they were hired, and if Garoppolo doesn’t improve, this could be his last season in Santa Clara. There is a long way to go, and it was just one game, but it’s naive to think that Garoppolo isn’t under pressure this year.

What’s the word on Kittle? Is he available to play this Sunday? -Joseph

We’ll find out later Wednesday afternoon about the status of Kittle for Week 2. On Tuesday, NFL Network said the 49ers are “cautiously optimistic” Kittle will be on the field come Sunday. The Jets aren’t very good, but the offense without Kittle or Deebo Samuel would likely struggle against anyone.

Someone else asked would I sit Kittle out of the next two games. As tempting as it may be, I’m not sure the 49ers have enough on offense to get by. Injuries aren’t fun!

Was the secondary that problematic, or was this Nuk? -A tortured Knicks fan

If you’re a Knicks fan, then Sunday should have been another day at the office. Sorry, that was low-hanging fruit.

I don’t think the secondary was as bad as you think, and I don’t believe they’ll run into a top-3 wide receiver weekly. That’ll help. You have to give credit to DeAndre Hopkins for making plays and Kliff Kingsbury for moving him around. Sometimes, the offense is just better. There were inexcusable plays, and, at some point, Robert Saleh should have assigned some type of double team toward Nuk. On the other hand, Kyler completed a far-hash out route to Hopkins that very few quarterbacks in this league would attempt. There was a combination of good plays by the offense and communication issues on defense.

I’m not worried about Emmanuel Moseley or the secondary.

What can be done to improve Jimmy’s pocket presence? -Camm

The most promising takeaway from training camp was Garoppolo’s pocket presence. He looked decisive and like a quarterback that knew where to go with the football. Was that due to playing against the same defense every day and knowing you’re not going to get hit? Based on what we saw Sunday, I think we know the answer to that question.

It’s hard for people to separate the quarterback and his surroundings. No matter how you slice it, Garoppolo didn’t play well, and it starts in the pocket. Jimmy G was patient in the pocket in August. That wasn’t the case Sunday. He looked like he was expecting pressure when the pressure never came. Garoppolo ran into a couple of sacks, and that was an issue. How can he improve? He needs to slow down and see the field. Shanahan using more play-action would help.

Do you think this loss will be a reminder to the team that they are the “hunted” now and they’re going to get everyone’s best shot - Jeffrey

Terrific question, and 100% yes. Even after a couple of dominating victories early in the season last year, the 49ers continued to fly under the radar. They are not afforded that same luxury in 2020. Everyone will be gunning for the Niners, and they are going to throw the kitchen sink at San Francisco. What we saw Week 1 would be normal in the sense that if you let teams hang around, they’ll make you pay. It goes back to execution, and the 49ers can’t afford to keep teams, especially bad ones, in games.

Can we agree that Jimmy is not the long-term answer? -Jay

Honestly, Niners Nation’s mentions on Twitter have been surprisingly realistic and have not made excuses for anyone, so thank you for being reasonable. As for Jimmy, it’s too soon to give up on him. At some point, we will have to have a difficult conversation if this play keeps up. There’s no reason to pull the plug on your starter after one week. Garoppolo was the third-lowest graded quarterback in the NFL from PFF, and his CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) was the third-worst as well. Jimmy brings a lot to the table, and we should give him more time, at least with a healthy offense, to determine whether Garoppolo’s the answer or not.

Do you think we should inquire about pass catchers that may be on other teams? -CJ

Thank you to the 24 people that asked whether the 49ers should trade for a receiver. On Tuesday, we discussed whether Allen Robinson is the answer. He’s a No. 1 receiver, and whenever those become available, the answer should be yes.

Early Tuesday morning Odell Bechkam Jr. had some words about Baker Mayfield and his team. OBJ said he wants to win and produce, two things that aren’t happening in Cleveland. Shanahan has pursued Beckham Jr. in the past, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team pick up the phone again. Both he and Robinson are stars and top-10 receivers in the NFL. I prefer Robinson, but would “settle” for OBJ. With those two and Aiyuk and Deebo on the field, there is no way the Cardinals would be able to crowd the box and force Garoppolo to throw the ball. It’s not happening. That would give the Niners four legitimate receiving threats, and if Jimmy G can’t make it happen with the talent around him, then he’s not your answer long-term. Adding a premier target would make it difficult on the salary cap, but it’d open up the offense in unexplainable ways. Raheem Mostert would have all types of new rushing lanes. You wouldn’t see as many blitzes. I could go on and on with the benefits. However, with the 49ers signing Mohamed Sanu, it’s unlikely the team will make another splash move at the position.