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Jimmy G preparing to incorporate new faces into offense

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Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might not know how it’s all going to look on Sunday, but at least he knows the plan going into the 49ers' season opener at Levi’s Stadium.

What happens after the game starts is open to anybody’s guess.

But as the 49ers continued preparations to face the Arizona Cardinals, the big challenge on the opposite sideline will be figuring out how to defend the 49ers’ new faces within coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

“That’s the tough part of no preseason and having to deal with that,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said this week on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

“Kyle does such a tremendous job of changing things up. He’s one of the most creative play-callers I’ve ever seen (with) the way he gets those guys the ball in the screen game to set up the run game.”

The 49ers might not have two of their top three wide receivers available for the opener at Levi’s Stadium, as Deebo Samuel (foot) and Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday.

But the 49ers have other players to pick up the slack – including several who did not even put on a 49ers uniform last season.

After a strong season a year ago, Garoppolo now has such players as slot receiver Trent Taylor, backup tight end Jordan Reed and third-down back Jerick McKinnon to work into the mix.

 

“I think there's a lot that goes into it,” Garoppolo said. “Obviously, it starts in practice, just being able to trust the guy, count on him that he's going to know what he has to do and get it done.

“But once you get into the games, when the bullets are flying, you really see the guys you can trust, the guys you can rely on. Some of that has to come by trial and error.”

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The 49ers owned the No. 2 scoring offense in the league last season at 29.9 points per game. And this season – when everyone is healthy – Garoppolo and Shanahan have far more players in the passing game to complement tight end George Kittle, the team’s top target.

The 49ers’ many options are enough for Kingsbury and his defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, to spend countless hours pondering the possibilities.

“That’ll be a unique challenge,” Kingsbury said. “We’re going to have to really stick to our fundamentals and know where everybody’s at.

“Their running backs are as deep as anybody in the league. So it’ll be a real challenge.”