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.”

Greg Cosell singles out 49ers player he believes is poised for a breakout season

kittlegeorgerunrams.jpg
AP

Greg Cosell singles out 49ers player he believes is poised for a breakout season

With the 146th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected...

George Kittle.

The tight end from Iowa had a solid rookie season -- racking up 43 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns.

On the latest episode of the 49ers Insider Podcast with Matt Maiocco, Greg Cosell of NFL Films was talking about Kyle Shanahan and Rams head coach Sean McVay. And then unsolicited, pivoted the conversation to Kittle.

"You know, I think one player we should mention who I really liked coming out of college -- and I know he fought some injuries last year but I think that he has a chance to be a really meaningul part of this offense -- and that's George Kittle," Cosell said. "I think George Kittle is a really good tight end who can do a lot of things.

"He can line up and be a really good blocking tight end -- and obviously we know that Kyle's offense does start with the run game. I think he's more athletic than people probably give him credit for.

"I remember studying him coming out of Iowa and looking at some of his Combine measureables -- some were superior to those of OJ Howard from Alabama, and I think people would be surprised by that.

"In this offense he might not catch 80 balls, but he might average 14-15 yards a catch, and for a tight end that's pretty darn good."

Kittle had his best game in the season finale -- four catches for 100 yards at the Rams.

Why Greg Cosell believes Jimmy Garoppolo needs work on his 'quarterback feet'

jimmygredeyes.jpg
USATSI

Why Greg Cosell believes Jimmy Garoppolo needs work on his 'quarterback feet'

Greg Cosell, a senior producer at NFL Films, believes 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo “has a chance to be a top-level quarterback.” But there remains room for improvement from the player the 49ers awarded a franchise-record contract in the offseason.

Garoppolo has a quick release and can throw at a number of different arm angles to avoid oncoming pass-rushers. And while his accuracy underneath was unquestioned during his 5-0 run as the 49ers’ starter last season, most of the time, his deep throws did not reach the target.

Garoppolo completed just 4 of 16 attempts to targets 20 yards or more down the field last season for 134 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus.

[RELATED: Greg Cosell: Kyle Shanahan does one thing 'better than any coach in the NFL']

During the offseason program, Garoppolo appeared to struggle on his deep throws, too. Cosell, a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, spoke about Garoppolo’s mechanics.

“Because he has very quick feet, I think people just assume he has great feet all the time when he delivers the ball,” Cosell said. “There’s a difference between having quick, athletic feet and having really good quarterback feet. And I think he needs to work on the quarterback feet part.

“I think guys who have that kind of snap delivery, sometimes they don’t step exactly to their throw and they throw a little bit off-balance, and that could really impact your accuracy to a significant degree. So my guess is those are the kinds of things they’ve worked on. Those are tweaks. I don’t think it will prevent him from being a really good player.”

Garoppolo appeared in six games with five starts last season after the 49ers acquired him for a second-round draft pick in a trade with the New England Patriots. Garoppolo completed 120 of 178 pass attempts (67.4 percent) for 1,580 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions.

Cosell said it is important for all quarterbacks to use consistent mechanics when making throws from a clean pocket.

“Think of a major league pitcher,” Cosell said. “They theoretically should throw the ball the same way every time. So should a quarterback unless the defense dictates otherwise. If the defense doesn’t dictate otherwise, the throws should look the same.”