Week one of the preseason for the San Francisco 49ers was a nice little teaser for the 2019 regular season. We are still some weeks away until opening day with week two of the preseason around the corner. The 49ers will head over to Denver to face the Broncos on Monday night with the expectation that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start. It is unclear how long he will play for but I would suspect at least two series.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan is making the right choice by playing him in the preseason. Injuries can impact a player’s psyche when they return to the field. By rolling him out in preseason games it will allow Garoppolo to shake off the cobwebs and build himself up for the regular season. Since he will only play in limited fashion there are three thing to watch for in his return to the field starting with his composure against pressure.
It’ll be interesting to see how Jimmy Garoppolo reacts against the pass rush. Coming off a torn ACL injury could be something that stays in the back of his mind when the pocket collapses. Will he just drop to the ground? Run off? Or take the hit? Kyle Shanahan does not want him to abandon scrambling so long as he is smart about it. However, being in that moment it’s just all instinct.
Just because he was told to do something when facing pressure doesn’t mean he’ll consistently do it. I’d bet that Shanahan wants to see how Garoppolo fairs against the pass rush, especially one as good as the Broncos. Whether or not Von Miller will play doesn’t matter. They are a well coached team by arguably the best defensive coach in the league in Vic Fangio.
Not to mention they still have Bradley Chubb and a stellar secondary. The 49ers receiver may be locked in coverage for too long to the point the that the pass protection breaks. If Garoppolo looks as if he hasn’t skipped a beat facing pressure, then all is well. The only bit of concern will be if he starts to look flustered and panicked. It could be from the fear of an injury or that he simply hasn't adapted to the speed yet.
Early on in training camp, reports were coming out that Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t completing a high percentage of his passes. While that could be because of some drops, that can also show his rust and time away from the game. It’s why it’s so important for him to get a few series in on Monday night. Just because he’s gotten some timing down with his receivers in practice doesn’t mean it’ll translate in a game.
The speed in practice can’t be replicated to that of a real game. Monday night will allow him to solidify the timing with his wideouts during live game speed. Do not be shocked if he under-throws some balls or throws a couple behind his receiver. That’ll be normal for his first outing in almost a year, especially against the Broncos talented secondary. Even if he’s throwing picks that should not be a cause for concern.
This is why the 49ers are playing him in the preseason, so that he can get back into the thick of things. Otherwise, had they held him out of preseason he could be severely under-performing the first few weeks of the season. Let him make his mistakes now because it doesn’t effect anything. So long as he’s shaking off the rust and solidifying his timing it’ll only benefit his regular season.
One of the traits that makes a quarterback skilled is their decision making. It can be the difference between a big play for a touchdown or an interception for the defense. Considering how long Jimmy Garoppolo has been out. As well as how highly complex Kyle Shanahan’s system is, then Garoppolo’s decision making is something to key in on.
Will he be able to make the right reads? Will he take a shot when he needs to? And will he be able to check it down at the right moment? Expecting him to make the right play every time isn’t realistic, but he should be able to make the right play the majority of the time. Decision making could be impacted by his injury because he could want to get the ball out quicker so he doesn’t get hit.
If he’s making questionable throws, then in this case it should be a bit concerning. While it is good he’s getting it out now in preseason, decision making is something that is difficult to coach out of a player. It's also a critical trait in Shanahan's offense. I don't think it's something to worry about, but it should be something to watch out for come Monday.