49ers

Garoppolo, 49ers face daunting challenge vs team with 'Super Bowl qualities'

Garoppolo, 49ers face daunting challenge vs team with 'Super Bowl qualities'

SANTA CLARA – With his quick release and surgical accuracy that enables his receivers the ability to turn upfield and run after the catch without breaking stride, Jimmy Garoppolo welcomes the opportunities that open when he sees a blitz coming.

On Sunday, the Tennessee Titans blitzed on more than half of Garoppolo’s dropbacks. He completed 16 of 23 passes while the Titans brought more than four pass-rushers for 214 yards and a 98.8 passer rating, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Every time you blitz, it leaves a hole somewhere,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “When you don’t blitz, sometimes you’ve got to wait on those holes to get open longer.”

And that is the challenge that awaits the 49ers on Sunday, as the Jacksonville Jaguars – owners of the No. 1 defense in the NFL – come to Levi’s Stadium to continue their quest for the AFC South title and a first-round bye in the playoffs. The 49ers and Jaguars ride into Sunday's game on three-game win streaks.

The Jaguars lead the NFL with 51 sacks. (The Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers’ opponent to close out the season, are second with 47 sacks.) The impressive part is that few teams blitz fewer times than Jacksonville under second-year defensive coordinator Todd Wash.

“It shows that you can get to the quarterback with four and that allows you to play much more sound, aggressive coverage,” Shanahan said of the Jaguars.

The Jaguars’ defense is loaded. Their top-ranked pass defense features two of the best cornerbacks in the game, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate with 14.5 sacks.

“I think every week is a different challenge in the NFL,” Garoppolo said. “Every team is a good team, no matter what their record is. These guys have a very talented defense. It’s just a different type of scheme. A lot of teams are adapting the scheme that these guys run and it’s becoming pretty popular in the NFL.”

The Jaguars’ defense is an off-shoot of the Seattle defense. It’s similar to the system Robert Saleh has implemented in his first season with the 49ers after spending the three previous years as linebackers coach with the Jaguars.

But what distinguishes Jacksonville’s defense is the number of standout players at every level of the defense.

“It’s not that unique,” Garoppolo said. “A lot of teams are adapting to this and so you see it all over the league now. Seattle started it and now teams are adapting it. I think the players that they have make it unique. They have very talented players on every level of the defense. It’s going to be a good challenge for us on Sunday.”

Said Shanahan, “I do believe that they have as much qualities as anyone that it takes to win a Super Bowl -- a top defense, a very good running game, a good offense, good special teams. When you see a team like that on tape that you believe has that ability, it’s a good thing, it’s a good challenge for your team to go against them and see where you’re at.”

49ers legend Joe Montana re-selling 500-acre Calistoga ranch for $28.9M

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AP

49ers legend Joe Montana re-selling 500-acre Calistoga ranch for $28.9M

Earlier this month, 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana put his 87-acre Northern California ranch on the market for $3.1 million.

This property is located next to his 500-acre ranch with a 9,700- square foot main residence in which he also owns. The estate is relisted and is for sale at $28.9 million. The area originally floated for $49 million a decade ago.

The France and Italy-inspired home began to take shape in the late '90s and finished in 2003.

You can access the property by a bridge, over a moat -- naturally. It also holds three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, large tapestries, antique marble floors and a collection of European imports, according to The Los Angeles Times

Click below for photos of the property.

PROPERTY GALLERY HERE

NFL preview 2019: How 49ers' offense stacks up against NFC West rivals

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AP

NFL preview 2019: How 49ers' offense stacks up against NFC West rivals

Despite losing their starting quarterback before the end of Week 3, the 49ers still managed to finish last season with a league-average offense, ranking 16th out of 32 teams with an average of 360.6 yards per game.

Jimmy Garoppolo says he's "good to go" and has zero restrictions. Head coach Kyle Shanahan remains one of the brightest offensive minds in the league, and he has several new weapons at his disposal in the form of running back Tevin Coleman and receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, among others.

All of this is to say that if -- and that's a big 'if' -- the 49ers manage to stay relatively healthy next season, the offense should take one or more steps forward, into the upper echelon of the NFL.

But will it be enough to vault them to the top offensive attack in the NFC West? There are three other teams banking on their own offensive progressions, including the reigning Super Bowl runner-up.

Based on the changes the teams have made since last season, here's how the NFC West offenses rank as training camp nears:

1. Los Angeles Rams

As good as Shanahan is, he might not be the best play-caller in the division.

If he isn't, that honor falls on Sean McVay, who in two seasons as the Rams' head coach has won 24 of 32 regular-season games and has led a top-two ranked scoring offense each time. It doesn't hurt that he has quite the offensive arsenal to utilize.

Behind center, Jared Goff has taken several steps forward in his development as an NFL quarterback under McVay, throwing 60 touchdowns to 19 interceptions over the last two seasons combined. At running back, no one has been more prolific in recent seasons than Todd Gurley, although the reports of arthritis in his knee give cause for concern. The Rams used a third-round draft pick on Darrell Henderson, a change-of-pace back that averaged 8.2 yards per carry over three years at Memphis, who should provide Los Angeles with some insurance and Gurley with the occasional breather.

The Rams lack a bonafide playmaker at the tight end position, but they more than make up for it with their talented receiving corps. Between Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, it might be the best receiver group in the entire league.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Again, health will be a determining factor, but the 49ers' offense is set up to leap forward this coming season.

Yes, Garoppolo is coming off a torn ACL, and yes, he's started only 10 games in his career, but there's a reason Shanahan identified him as his guy. He's a great intermediate passer who has shown an ability to make plays while improvising. His deep ball still needs work, but with the weapons at his disposal, he should be able to spread the ball around a ton.

At running back, the 49ers have the fastest group in the league. Coleman, Matt Breida and Jerrick McKinnon are all blurs in human form, and all have the ability to split out wide.

San Francisco used two draft picks to beef up its receiving corps, using second and third-round selections on Samuel and Hurd, respectively. They'll join Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis and others to present opposing defenses with nightmarish matchup problems.

[RELATED: Jimmy G has high praise for 'tremendous talent' Pettis]

Oh, and then there's George Kittle, who just set the NFL's single-season yardage record by a tight end. He might not reach 88 receptions and 1,377 receiving yards again, but given the improved options around him, it's going to be difficult for opposing defenses to throw any extra attention his way.

3. Seattle Seahawks

Outside of Russell Wilson, there's not a whole lot on Seattle's offense that is bound to keep defensive coordinators up at night. That said, Wilson is obviously quite good.

Entering next season, Wilson will have the second-highest career passer rating (100.3) in NFL history, behind only Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (103.1). He led the Seahawks to a 10-6 record in 2018, throwing a career-high 35 touchdowns to a career-low seven interceptions.

Unfortunately for Wilson, he's losing his most dependable target. Doug Baldwin has retired, leaving Tyler Lockett to lead an otherwise unproven receiving corps, featuring the likes of David Moore, Jaron Brown, Amara Darboh and second-round draft pick DK Metcalf.

At running back, Chris Carson was a pleasant surprise last season, but he overshadowed Rashaad Penny, who Seattle selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Only the Ravens ran the ball more times than the Seahawks last season, and with several straight-line deep threats at receiver, expect more of the same to set up play-action.

4. Arizona Cardinals

Out of all the offenses in the division, the Cardinals' is the most difficult to predict, simply due to the number of unknowns at critical positions.

At head coach, Arizona brought in Kliff Kingsbury, he of the 35-40 career coaching record at the collegiate level. Still, Kingsbury is widely regarded as an offensive savant, and the Cardinals are counting on him to develop No. 1 overall draft pick Kyler Murray into one of the most dynamic offensive threats in the league.

Speaking of Murray, he's the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, but while he was playing behind an NFL-level offensive line at Oklahoma -- seriously, go look at the roster -- he wasn't consistently going up against NFL-caliber defenses. That will change, obviously.

He's not entirely without help, though. He's got one of the most dependable receivers in NFL history in Larry Fitzgerald. Christian Kirk looks to build off a productive rookie season, and the Cardinals selected three promising receivers in the draft. One could make the case, however, they should have invested more in the offensive line, which allowed 52 sacks and 109 quarterback hits last season.

It remains to be seen if running back David Johnson can regain his 2016 form. But if the offensive line doesn't take a big step forward, it won't matter what he, Murray or Kingsbury does.