In today’s Niners Nation Gold Standard Podcast, Levin Black and I decided to answer two questions:
- Which training camp reports have you most excited about a particular player (other than Lance)?
- Which unit will you be watching this weekend against LA?
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to address the second question. The two units that I’m most interested in watching are the first-team offense (regardless of the quarterback) and the special teams.
To put into context exactly how banged up the 49ers were last year, there were only two games that saw Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle play the entire game together. The two games were Week 6 against the Rams and Week 7 against the Patriots. In those games, the 49ers outscored their opponents 57-22, and that’s against Brandon Staley and Bill Belichick defenses.
Does that mean we can expect that kind of production all year? Of course not, but I just want to be able to see what the offense looks like when it’s actually functioning the way it was drawn up. You know, just for a change. At least for a little while against the Chargers, I’m hoping we get a glimpse of that machine.
My reason for choosing the special teams unit is far less positive. In the four years that Richard Hightower has been the coordinator of the special teams, they’ve never been great, but last year was particularly brutal.
According to Football Outsiders, the 49ers ranked 23rd in special teams DVOA last year. They had more giveaways (4) as a unit than anyone else in the league. They had more penalties as a group than any other special teams unit in the league. They finished 9th worst in average starting field position. They ranked 17th in field goals/extra points, 21st in kickoffs, 31st in kick return— you get the point. They stunk.
And how did they start this year against the Chiefs? With Robbie Gould doinking the first extra point of the season off the upright and three punt returns for a grand total of 10 yards.
No doubt about it, the special teams unit has to improve in 2021. The offense shouldn’t have to drive 80 yards every possession, and the defense shouldn’t have to constantly defend short fields because returners can’t take care of the football.
What unit are you keeping your eye on in preseason game number two? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Other topics in today’s episode
- Is Jauan Jennings what Jalen Hurd was supposed to be?
- Is Brandon Aiyuk the best wide receiver this team has had since Terrell Owens?
- What can Talanoa Hufanga bring to the defense that they haven’t had in years?
- Random off-topic debate: If every president of the United States was in a battle royale, who would win?