Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo being in his own head might allow Bengals to beat 49ers, says former NFL scout

Sep 11, 2019 at 8:37 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers were lucky they opened up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, says former NFL scout and current writer for The Athletic, John Middlekauf. Had quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense struggled against another team as they did in Tampa, the 49ers might be 0-1 right now.

If Garoppolo doesn't play more inspiring football on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco might leave their East Coast trip with a 1-1 record.

Sunday was Garoppolo's first regular-season action in nearly a year, since the quarterback suffered a torn ACL last September. There was bound to be some rust. The solution may be as simple as waiting it out as Garoppolo gains more playing time. Sunday was also just the quarterback's 11th career start.

Middlekauf, who joined KNBR on Tuesday, didn't let Garoppolo's multi-interception practice or his ugly preseason showing against the Denver Broncos affect his belief that the quarterback is a good player. Sunday's performance, however, made him question a few things, especially when it came to a couple of key throws where Garoppolo was off-target.

"I'm starting to be a little concerned because — not that he's not a good player anymore — I think he's like a kicker or a golfer," Middlekauf said on the "Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks" show. "I think he's in his own head right now, and he's really pressing."

Added Middlekauf, "Him and Kyle (Shanahan) — they're spending the week in Ohio — should just get a couple of beers tonight, yesterday, or whatever, and just talk some things out. This is why Kyle makes seven-and-a-half million dollars a year. It's on him to figure out how to get this guy to relax because right now, it doesn't feel like he's relaxed."

Middlekauf goes on to say the 49ers are lucky they were gifted a "crappy team and definitely a crappy quarterback" in Week 1 by NFL schedule makers.

"I'm just watching a little bit of the Cincinnati-Seattle game; Cincy is better than Tampa," Middlekauf continued. "Jimmy is going to have to play better, or they will not win the game, and definitely some of these teams coming up. That would be my concern, is when you play better teams in 2019, you can't throw for 180 yards. You've got to be 300 yards and have some big-time drives, and right now, I don't know about you guys, but I don't have much confidence, in a tight spot, second half, him just being able to lead the team downfield."

Middlekauf was impressed with the 49ers defense, though. He likes Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, and others.

"I actually think they'll be pretty good," Middlekauf added. "I mean, their defense has a chance. If Ahkello Witherspoon is now all of a sudden good, and Tarvarius Moore is good, and obviously Richard Sherman is Richard Sherman, and their front seven, they might actually have just a pretty good defense, which to me gets back to the quarterback.

"I mean, you're paying this guy all this money, you would have thought that was the one position a year ago — you're like, 'Oh, we've got Jimmy Garoppolo; our defense stinks.' Now the defense is good, and the major question mark is the quarterback. It's just kind of crazy."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Middlekauf below. He breaks down several areas of the 49ers roster based on what was seen on Sunday, including the major question marks at wide receiver, the failure to hit on some high draft picks, the loss of Tevin Coleman, and more.

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