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Can Brock Purdy give the passing offense a new gear?

Taking a look at how Purdy attacked the field compared to the other quarterbacks on the roster in year’s past.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The 49ers’ passing game has been largely discussed following Brock Purdy’s impressive debut and run as the starting quarterback. With the offense scoring at a clip not seen since Steve Young was under center, did the 49ers convert to a more explosive offense based on pass direction and depth of passes?

In five starts, Purdy attacked the deep portions of the field 27 times out of his 170 passing attempts, according to PFF. The 49ers quarterbacks, as a whole, attacked deep 74 times in 2023. Purdy accounted for 36 percent of the team’s throws beyond 20 yards in five games.

As for where that ranks in the NFL, the 49ers ranked 23rd in deep left attempts, 14th in deep middle attempts, and 32nd in deep right attempts. However, the team ranked second in AVG gain on deep left throws with 14.48 yards. Purdy was 4/9 for 146 yards with three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a passer rating of 130.8.

When Purdy is discussed as a quarterback who operates Kyle Shanahan’s system very well, it is often seen as a slight to the young quarterback. The marriage between Shanahan’s offense and Purdy’s skillset might be the perfect blend.

Taking a look at the 49ers’ passing offense since 2019, not much has changed in terms of deep attacks. Regardless of the quarterback, the position requires precision, timing throws, and keeping the offense on schedule.

Here are the 49ers’ splits from 2019 to 2022:

2019 (Jimmy Garoppolo)

Short left: 126 plays, 30th in the NFL. 8.48 AVG gain, first in the NFL. 78.57 completion percentage, third in the NFL.

Short middle: 119 plays, 11th in the NFL. 9.37 AVG gain, third in the NFL. 73.11 completion percentage, third in the NFL.

Short right: 169 plays, 21st in the NFL. 5.14 AVG gain, 26th in the NFL. 65.09 completion percentage, 21st in the NFL.

Deep left: 23 plays, 31st in the NFL. 13.87 AVG gain, fourth in the NFL. 52.17 completion percentage, first in the NFL.

Deep middle: 12 plays, 30th in the NFL. 27.42 AVG gain, first in the NFL. 83.33 completion percentage, first in the NFL.

Deep right: 27 plays, 31st in the NFL. 13.52 AVG gain, ninth in the NFL. 48.15 completion percentage, seventh in the NFL.

2020 (Garoppolo, Mullens, Beathard)

Short left: 182 plays, 11th in the NFL. 6.33 AVG gain, 13th in the NFL. 67.03 completion percentage, 30th in the NFL.

Short middle: 145 plays, second in the NFL. 7.98 AVG gain, sixth in the NFL. 65.52 completion percentage, 27th in the NFL.

Short right: 167 plays, 21st in the NFL. 6.19 AVG gain, eighth in the NFL. 68.26 completion percentage, 19th in the NFL.

Deep left: 28 plays, 27th in the NFL. 10.79 AVG gain, 16th in the NFL. 42.86 completion percentage, 14th in the NFL.

Deep middle: 19 plays, 20th in the NFL. 17.68 AVG gain, seventh in the NFL. 68.42 completion percentage, sixth in the NFL.

Deep right: 28 plays, 28th in the NFL. 16.64 AVG gain, second in the NFL. 53.57 completion percentage, fifth in the NFL.

2021 (Garoppolo and Lance)

Short left: 141 plays, 29th in the NFL. 7.80 AVG gain, first in the NFL. 75.89 completion percentage, sixth in the NFL.

Short middle: 147 plays, fourth in the NFL. 9.16 AVG gain, second in the NFL. 68.71 completion percentage, 17th in the NFL.

Short right: 139 plays, 32nd in the NFL. 6.95 AVG gain, second in the NFL. 69.78 completion percentage, 15th in the NFL.

Deep left: 28 plays, 28th in the NFL. 10.89 AVG gain, 21st in the NFL. 39.29 completion percentage, 20th in the NFL.

Deep middle: 27 plays, fifth in the NFL. 13.48 AVG gain, 19th in the NFL. 51.85 completion percentage, 13th in the NFL.

Deep right: 30 plays, 28th in the NFL. 14.33 AVG gain, second in the NFL. 43.33 completion percentage, fifth in the NFL.

2022 (Lance, Garoppolo, and Purdy)

Short left: 166 plays, 21st in the NFL. 7.52 AVG gain, first in the NFL. 72.89 completion percentage, seventh in the NFL.

Short middle: 113 plays, 11th in the NFL. 8.99 AVG gain, second in the NFL. 69.91 completion percentage, 13th in the NFL.

Short right: 159 plays, 28th in the NFL. 6.5 AVG gain, third in the NFL. 69.18 completion percentage, 12th in the NFL.

Deep left: 33 plays, 23rd in the NFL. 14.48 AVG gain, second in the NFL. 45.45 completion percentage, sixth in the NFL.

Deep middle: 21 plays, 14th in the NFL. 8.00 AVG gain, 30th in the NFL. 33.33 completion percentage, 31st in the NFL.

Deep right: 20 plays, 32nd in the NFL. 9.2 AVG gain, 27th in the NFL. 30.00 completion percentage, 30th in the NFL.

The heart of the Shanahan offense is the run game. The deep attempts are more a product of opportunities created with the run game, play action, or defenses jumping shorter routes.

Purdy executed the short game and hit enough deep passes to keep defenses somewhat honest. Regardless, the short game will always be the point of emphasis for the passing offense. The difference will be in Purdy’s ability to convert his limited attempts downfield.

That could be a scary proposition for opposing defenses.