First, we’ll start with what Joe saw in the run game and then get to an adjustment San Francisco made to help Jimmy Garoppolo on third downs.
“What was exciting, too, was that they were kind of getting away from what maybe was the bread and butter of what you say the 49ers’ offense is as far as outside stretch zone. They were doing a lot more, kind of, toss in the backfield to get those linebackers and everybody stretching.
They were playing more to their strengths up front and that play was kind of winding back towards the middle, which was allowing the offensive line to do more combination inside zone blocking - which I think is more of their strength as individual players right now.
They’re more of an in-line, kind of get these guys moving, take advantage of the linebackers overplaying. You saw a lot of Jeff Wilson’s runs were through the middle. They were that toss action in the backfield, cut back inside. They were also a lot of power scheme, which is what you don’t think of when you think of [Kyle] Shanahan’s offense.
That was encouraging to see that Shanahan, Chris Foerster, guys that are building a run game are identifying now, through five weeks of the season, ‘What are our guys strengths? What do they do really well? What can we do to put them in the best position to be successful?’”
The outside zone stuff is great, but only if you’ve got the personnel to execute it properly. Now that things have (at least temporarily) stabilized at the running back position, Shanahan is clearly better able to tailor the scheme to suit both his starting running back and his offensive line.
As far as the passing game, Joe said the big change came on third downs.
“This last game, they did make a concerted effort to go a lot of empty protection, which is really helpful for the quarterback because you get to see the defense. They have to declare, especially if you’re taking out [Kyle] Juszczyk, Tevin [Coleman], or maybe Jeff Wilson every once in a while on third down, to see what the matchup is. It really paints a picture.
Jimmy is really good once he knows and processes where he wants to go with the ball. We talk a lot of times about what he’s not. He’s not gonna be the guy that has a huge arm and make these huge plays downfield, but what he does a tremendous job of is throws the ball very quickly without his lower half being set. He has a great ability just to get that torque from his upper body and get rid of the ball quick...I think we saw the best version of Jimmy.”
The 49ers converted 7 of 12 third down attempts on Sunday against Carolina, and all of them came through the air.
Last year the 49ers evolved throughout the season and eventually became a team that could give you all you could handle on both sides of the ball. We might not be there yet, but according to at least one trained eye, adjustments are being made, and things are moving in the right direction.
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