Last season was only the beginning. Right?
The 49ers came out of nowhere in 2019 to get agonizingly close to winning the Super Bowl.
The team, returning all but four starters and adding some significant new players, was expected to come out strong and establish itself once again as a Super Bowl contender.
But the 2020 season got off to a rough start with a 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals –- a club that finished last in the NFC West a year ago.
Is there a reason for 49ers fans to be concerned with what they witnessed from their living rooms Sunday? Let’s take a look:
Overreaction? No ... and yes.
This is a reasonable concern because this was the area in which Jimmy Garoppolo appeared to make his biggest improvement during training camp. He was decisive, and the ball came out with confidence.
Of course, practicing against your own defense –- with strict orders to not touch the quarterback -– and playing against an angry opponent are two different things.
Garoppolo has such a quick release, sometimes I wonder if he feels as if he can hold the ball a split-second (or more) longer to allow his receiver to create more separation.
The problem with that thinking is that usually when a receiver is open at the time the ball is released, the receiver is not as open when the ball arrives.
But is Garoppolo a lost cause? Absolutely not.
I do not believe Garoppolo is among the top-third of quarterbacks in the league. I do not believe he is among the bottom-third, either. He is somewhere in that middle group, probably closer to the top than the bottom.
He certainly has to clean up some things, and Kyle Shanahan will coach him hard this week.
Garoppolo should be able to bounce back these next two weeks with better showings against the New York teams. Garoppolo had a good season in 2019, and he will be better and continue to improve this year.
The 49ers suited up one NFL-caliber outside receiver for the opener against the Cardinals.
Kendrick Bourne is fine. He made a couple of nice catches for 34 yards. But he did not go up and fight for that late pass from Garoppolo in the end zone like Shanahan would have preferred.
The 49ers really felt the absences of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Samuel had a setback in his rehab from surgery to repair a Jones fracture. The club hopes he will be available for the Week 4 game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi’s Stadium.
Aiyuk is expected to make his NFL debut Sunday against the Jets. You can never expect too much from a rookie wide receiver, but Aiyuk should be able to at least keep defenses honest.
Dante Pettis had a promising training camp, but he simply was not a factor against the Cardinals. He had one opportunity to make a play on a deep throw from Garoppolo but seemed more concerned with the oncoming safety and not the oncoming football.
The 49ers are OK with Samuel, Aiyuk and Bourne as a team’s top three outside threats. Trent Taylor is fine as the slot receiver. But after that ... there’s not much here.
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley could not have had a more difficult assignment, going up against DeAndre Hopkins in Week 1.
The Cardinals had a good plan. Moseley did not give up anything behind him, and Kyler Murray took advantage with a bunch of throws underneath to Hopkins.
Because Murray got the ball out quickly, it neutralized the 49ers’ pass rush. And when the 49ers’ coverage was good, Murray tucked the ball under his arm and took off running.
Moseley has a good mindset. He’ll be fine. All corners need help from the pass rush. It all ties together. This is largely the same defense that gave up fewer passing yards in a season than any team in the past decade.
Moseley –- like the entire the team -– should have a bounce-back game against the Jets.