If it’s one team that is gnawing at the bit to take that next step in 2019, it’s the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers won five straight games at the end of the 2017 season with Jimmy Garoppolo under center.
After a 1-1 start in 2018, the 49ers lost their starting quarterback for the season with a torn ACL after losing their starting running back Jerrick McKinnon in training camp to the same injury.
With everyone healthy, the 49ers will look to prove what they believe is high potential. They have the young head, offensive-minded head coach in Kyle Shanahan, the quarterback in Garopollo, and the surrounding core – now they need to prove themselves.
Week 1 – at Carolina, 1 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 2 – vs. New Orleans, 4:25 ET – Opponent Preview
Week 3 – at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m. ET (SNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 4 – vs. Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 5 – at Seattle, 8:20 p.m. ET (TNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 6 – vs. San Francisco, 4:25 p.m. ET
The 49ers entered 2018 with the hope of taking the next step. They finished the 2017 season on a five-game win streak, and Garoppolo would have had a full offseason to work with head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Garropollo had never lost a game in his career that he started, but that would change after Week 1 as the 49ers would lose to the Minnesota Vikings. They bounced back the next week with a 30-27 win over the Detroit Lions.
Disaster would strike in Week 3. Trailing in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo would tear his ACL, essentially ending the 49ers season. Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard would lose the next five games as the 49ers dropped to 1-7.
Kyle Shanahan would switch it up at quarterback in Week 9 and go to Nick Mullens. The undrafted quarterback out of Southern Mississippi would throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a win against the Oakland Raiders and would start the rest of the season.
The 49ers won their first games back-to-back in Week 14 and 15, defeating the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. Mullens and the 49ers offense exploded for 17 second-quarter points to beat the Broncos, 20-14, and then they ended a 10-game losing streak to the Seahawks, winning 26-23 in overtime.
That would be the highpoint of the 49ers season as they ended with a top-10 pick in the draft for a fourth consecutive year after suffering their fifth-straight non-winning season.
Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses
Added: DL Dee Ford, LB Kwon Alexander, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Jordan Matthews, CB Jason Verrett, OL Ben Garland,
Lost: WR Pierre Garcon, RB Alfred Morris
The 49ers didn’t lose a lot in free agency and for the most part, made moves to help them compete for the NFC West and the playoffs this season.
The defense was a big issue last season outside of the injured quarterback, and they went out and traded for Dee Ford and signed cornerback Jason Verrett. Kwon Alexander will bring a veteran presence to the linebackers as well.
The 49ers lose Garcon but are ready for their young pieces such as Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin to take over.
A Look at The Draft
With the Arizona Cardinals taking Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, the 49ers got the best player in the draft at No. 2 in Nick Bosa. He’ll be a dominant force on the defensive line right away.
On day two, the 49ers added more young wide receivers in Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Samuel with make an immediate impact while Hurd competes for a spot on the outside.
Tight end Kaden Smith out of Stanford highlighted day three. The 49ers already have one of the best tight ends in the game in George Kittle, but Smith offers another red zone target.
Biggest On Field Question
Can the 49ers put all the pieces together and make them work?
Over the last two years, the 49ers have been a lot of hype. After trading for Garoppolo, this was a team that many saw as an immediate threat in the NFC. Even when he was playing, the starting quarterback wasn’t performing well.
Pro Football Focus graded Garoppolo as the 27th-rated quarterback in Week 1-3 last season after completing less than 60% of his passes for the first time in his career. His deep ball accuracy wasn’t there last year, and he wasn’t sharp. That will need to improve.
This is a team with a lot of talent and young, promising head coach. It’s time to prove it or lose it.
Depth Chart Analysis
Quarterback: This is Jimmy Garoppolo’s spot, but Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard each provide solid quarterback depth.
Running Back: In Atlanta, the Falcons had a fantastic two-man punch with Coleman and Devonta Freeman. With Coleman, McKinnon, and Matt Breida, this is one of the deepest and most talented positions on the 49ers roster.
Wide Receiver: The 49ers lose Garcon, but he never eclipsed 500 yards and didn’t have the effect many were expecting in the Shanahan offense. Pettis, Goodwin, and Samuel provide a promising trio.
Tight End: With Gronkowski retired, one could make the argument that George Kittle is the best tight end in the NFL. He broke the single-season receiving yards mark last season and by adding Kaden Smith to the fold, this is a solid group.
Right Tackle: Mike McGlinchey is as solid as they come on the right side.
Left Tackle: Joe Staley is one of the best in the game. It doesn’t get much better. The 49ers don’t have great depth at the tackle position with Shon Coleman waiting to back Staley or McGlinchey.
Left Guard: Joshua Garnett has been a bust up to this point in his career and hasn’t played a snap since Chip Kelly. Laken Tomlinson has turned around his career with the 49ers, but there are plenty of questions here.
Right Guard: The same holds on the right side. Mike Person gets the job done, but is replaceable. This is a position to keep an eye on throughout camp to see who steps up.
Center: Weston Richburg recorded the most penalties since his rookie season and his 23 quarterback hurries allowed, six hits, and four sacks all ranked in the bottom-five among centers. It doesn’t get much better with Erik Magnuson behind him.
Defensive End: Nick Bosa and Dee Ford will provide a solid 1-2 punch off the edge that will give offensive lines fits. Solomon Thomas provides solid depth here as well.
Defensive Tackle: On the inside, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are a young, promising duo. This could easily be one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
Linebacker: Fred Warner turned out to be an excellent draft selection last year and adding Alexander to play next to him will only help. David Mayo had an outstanding rookie season and can only hope a change in scenery will help him get back to that.
Defensive Backs: This is a very experienced group with Jimmy Ward and Richard Sherman. There are still questions with Akhello Witherspoon and the starting pair of Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt at safety. The 49ers can only hope an improved pass rush will help.
With everyone healthy heading into the 2019 season, fans can only hope the 49ers take that next step and prove their talent is real. This is a team with the potential to win 10 or more games, but could also end up below or around .500.
If the 49ers can make a late push for the postseason and compete in the NFC West, it would be a considerable improvement over the last two years.