Last week the 49ers got to debut their biggest weapon in a limited capacity against the Chiefs. This week against the Rams, expect number 23 to be on full display.
Yesterday Kyle Shanahan was asked whether having McCaffrey around for a full week would get his creative juices flowing as a play-designer.
“When you have someone like Christian, it’s always a lot more fun. I don’t see it much as creative juices versus the Rams, we don’t change much. They don’t change much. We do the same thing each time. They do too. Their scheme hasn’t changed in a number of years and neither has ours. You try your hardest to get good players the ball in space and you see what they do with it. It’s a pretty simple game with both of us, because we know each other well and it usually turns into a physicality game. Who turns the ball over the least and who makes one more play than the other?”
This is coach-speak if I’ve ever heard it. There is no way Kyle is going to give up four draft picks for McCaffrey and then go into a pivotal game against a division rival and “not change much.” Of course, he’s going to change things - that was the entire point of getting him in the first place.
First off, none of McCaffrey’s 22 snaps came on third down or in the two-minute offense. Expect that the change in a big way this week, particularly with Kyle Juszczyk (who had been doing some third down duty) out with a broken finger.
Shanahan loves position-less football, and McCaffrey gives him the ultimate Swiss Army knife on the most important down. Shanahan is a master at influencing defenses with pre-snap motion. Imagine how much more attention they’ll have to pay when one of the best dual-threat backs in the league is changing positions second before the play begins.
Second, even in a paltry 22 snaps last week, McCaffrey was lined up in the backfield, out wide, and in the slot. That was with roughly 48 hours to prepare. With a whole week of preparation this time around, many more options will be available. Shanahan himself said yesterday that the entire playbook would be open to Christian.
If all else fails, like Jimmy Garoppolo told the Fox broadcast team last week, “If he doesn’t know the play, I’ll just tell him what to do in the huddle.”
The entire point of acquiring Christian McCaffrey was to give the offense more options and hopefully make it easier to move the ball down the field and put the ball in the endzone. With both sides of the ball struggling and the team’s back against the wall against a division rival, you can expect Kyle Shanahan to throw the kitchen sink at the Rams - regardless of what he says at the podium.
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