Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers hope reduced role in 2019 makes Marquise Goodwin more effective

Apr 2, 2019 at 1:41 PM--

Marquise Goodwin was part of Kyle Shanahan's and John Lynch's first free agent class as the duo kicked off their regime with the San Francisco 49ers. The wideout surpassed 400 receiving yards just once during his four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and was seen more as a situational speed-receiver who could do damage on the outside.

Goodwin proved to be much more than that.

During his first season in the Bay Area, Goodwin came within 38 yards of his first 1,000-yard season and did so while dealing with personal tragedy. His on-the-field play and big heart off the field instantly made Goodwin a fan-favorite.

Expectations were high for the 2018 season, but injuries struck, and Goodwin was limited to just 23 catches for 395 yards with four touchdowns. It was his lowest yardage total since the 2015 season when he missed five games due to broken ribs. Two 49ers receivers, Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis, surpassed Goodwin's receiving yards total in 2018 despite neither wideout hitting the 500-yard mark.

Pettis' role could increase and the team recently signed former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews. There is also a strong chance the 49ers use a Day 2 draft pick on a receiver later this month.

What does the future hold for Goodwin, who is signed through the 2021 season? For one, the 49ers would like to make sure he stays healthy, even if that means limiting his snaps.

"Even though the numbers might not be the same, that helps us play at a higher level because they're not out there every single play," Shanahan recently told Matt Barrows of The Athletic. "You're not asking them to do a bunch of stuff they don't excel at. You kind of use them in their areas of expertise."

Barrows held a fan Q&A on Tuesday and went into more detail regarding Goodwin's future role with the 49ers.

"When he's 100 percent healthy, he's terrific," wrote Barrows. "But when he's nicked — which is inevitable in the sport of football — his performance drops off precipitously. Listening to Shanahan, it sounds as if the team thinks Goodwin would be more effective throughout the course of a full season if he wasn't an every-down player. Which is to say, I think his role this year — at least entering the season — will be as a complementary receiver, someone they want to see get X-amount of snaps per game but no more."

Goodwin already saw his role reduced in 2018 after returning from a two-game absence — again, due to a similar family tragedy. Injuries contributed to the decreased snaps but so did Pettis. With the 49ers already long-eliminated from playoff contention, the coaching staff saw the final games as an opportunity to get Pettis, a rookie, more experience.

"We wanted Pettis to come along, and we thought if he stayed out and played more, it'd give him a chance to get better," Shanahan told reporters in December. "First time he got to do that was Tampa, which wasn't a choice because Quise left the day before for good reasons. Then, Pettis did struggle at times in that game, but he got better as the game went which made us realize we need to keep him out there.

"So, when Quise was going to come back, we were going to mix him in more. Bourne stepped up, too. So, we're trying to do a rotation, how we think is best for the team, best for all of our guys. Then, in the meantime, Quise just got banged up again. I think we started to use him a little more versus Denver. But, his health has kind of made it hard."

A healthier Goodwin will mean a successful 2019 campaign. As Barrows points out, barring other injuries, his role is likely to be reduced at least entering the season. However, good health combined with more production could change that.

After overcoming so much in his life, Goodwin seems like the type of person capable of answering such a challenge.

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