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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.

Jimmy Garoppolo takes ownership for 49ers' lack of completions vs. Seahawks

Jimmy Garoppolo takes ownership for 49ers' lack of completions vs. Seahawks

SANTA CLARA — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, had a valid point after Super Bowl XLVI: that it takes two players to complete a pass in football, and even her six-time champion husband can't do it all. 
 
After several dropped passes in the 49ers' 27-24 loss to the Seahawks, San Francisco signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo echoed the same philosophy but instead, took much more of the onus on himself. 

“Whenever there are drops, it takes the guy throwing the ball and [the guy] catching the ball,” Garoppolo said on Wednesday. “Obviously I could throw it better to make it easier for those guys.”

Garoppolo only completed 24 of his 46 attempts for 248 yards which is just over 52 percent, his lowest completion rate of the season. Even in Week 7 in rainy Washington, where he had a lower rating, he had a slightly higher completion percentage of 57 percent.  

Jimmy G is consistent with every report from the 49ers' locker room over the past three seasons that there is no finger pointing. Rather, it’s a consensus that everyone needs to be better at their job collectively to improve as a team. 

“Those guys work their ass off,” Garoppolo said of his receivers. “They really do. They come in every day with a good mindset and it’s just when your number gets called you have to take advantage of the opportunities because in the league, we all know, you don’t get too many of them, so when you do, you have to take advantage of it.”  

Outside of Emmanuel Sanders, who left the game early with a rib injury, the receiving group in Santa Clara is young. Rookie Deebo Samuel was Garoppolo's top target on Monday night. Marquise Goodwin is the only member of the group that has at least three full seasons worth of experience under his belt. He was only on the field for 10 snaps against the Seahawks. 

Because the group is young, Garoppolo has to find a balance between giving constructive criticism to players and pumping up their confidence after mistakes. 

“There’s a fine line between it,” Garoppolo said. “You want to pick guys up especially after a tough drop or whatever it is but like I said before, it takes a guy to throw the ball and catch the ball to complete a pass. I just got to be more accurate. Make it easier for those guys and help them out.”

[RELATED: Sanders remains 'day to day' for 49ers with ribs still sore

Garoppolo, who spent extra time with Sanders upon his arrival to work on their chemistry, is always willing to do the same with all of his receivers. He is not worried about the offense bouncing back as a group, wide receivers in particular. 

“Obviously the more reps you get, the more practice, the better off you’ll be,” Garoppolo said. “But we’ve been pretty good up until this point. Had a little bit of a fluke in the last game with the drops and everything but you can’t overstress it. Let those guys go play, let them play ball. They are going to make plays, they are good players out there.”  

49ers' Emmanuel Sanders remains sore, 'day to day' with ribs injury

49ers' Emmanuel Sanders remains sore, 'day to day' with ribs injury

SANTA CLARA – Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders envisioned having a big game on Monday night before leaving the game after just 24 snaps due to a rib injury.

“It sucked,” Sanders said on Wednesday. “I wanted to be out there with the guys, especially because I felt like I was going to have a good game. Then, when I got hurt, it sucked.”

Sanders appeared to sustain the injury in the first quarter while making a 12-yard reception. He bent awkwardly and his helmet came off when he was hit by Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald at the end of the play.

The next time Jimmy Garoppolo a pass Sanders’ way, it was low and Sanders immediately grabbed the right side of his chest and ran off the field. He did not come back into the game. Sanders had two catches for 24 yards in his limited action.

[RELATED: 49ers sign DE Moore after placing Blair on season-ending IR]

Sanders declined to reveal the specifics of his injury, but coach Kyle Shanahan said the injury is to Sanders’ rib cartilage. Sanders said he is still sore and described himself as “day to day.”

Sanders was one of several 49ers who were not on the field at the start of Wednesday’s practice and may not be available for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium. The list also includes:

TE George Kittle (knee/ankle)
LT Joe Staley (finger dislocation/fracture)
RB Matt Breida (ankle)
K Robbie Gould (quadriceps)
NT D.J. Jones (groin)
LB Azeez Al-Shaair (concussion)