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Could Kyle Shanahan keep Jimmy Garoppolo? Who plays Friday night? And more 49ers mailbag questions answered

Marc Adams
Aug 10, 2022 at 8:19 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers have a game this week. Not one that counts, or one that even has much meaning. Although it is meaningful to some young players trying to make the team.

Friday night we get our first look at some of the new 49ers we've yet to see, as San Francisco squares off with the Green Bay Packers. Who will play? Who won't play? What if Trey Lance looks bad? We have answers to all your team questions and more. Let's open the mailbag.

What will Shanahan do if Lance stays around a 50 percent comp % in camp and preseason? Will he still get rid of Jimmy and still start Lance? - Daniel K.

Jimmy Garoppolo is still with the team, but only because a decision on what to do with him has yet to be made. He isn't practicing with the team, he isn't meeting with the team. Quarterbacks coach, Brian Griese, as we last knew, had still not even met Garoppolo. It would shock me if last year's signal-caller is still with the team on September 11th.

Everyone knows that Lance's biggest weakness is his accuracy as a thrower. That was common knowledge before the 2021 draft, based on his college tape. Other than that, I'm not terribly concerned about what he's doing, good or bad, in training camp. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Training camp is a time when players work on things. And it's not necessarily a time to work on what you're already good at. Sometimes you work on things you're not yet good at. Sometimes it's experimental. Sometimes it involves technique. The point is, it's hard to judge a player's training camp performance, especially that of a quarterback, when we don't really know what they are working on or what the coach is wanting him to do.
  2. Lance is throwing downfield more than Garoppolo. Some have mentioned how Garoppolo threw for around 64% last year in training camp, while Lance is around 50% this year. But Lance is pushing the ball down the field more often. Garoppolo rarely did that, even in training camp. Longer passes are harder to complete.
  3. Training camp practices are not being schemed up to beat the defense. In other words, the offense is working on plays, not a specific, opponent-focused game plan.
  4. Players have good practices and back practices. Case in point, Lance was awful on Sunday, and excellent on Tuesday. It's encouraging to see that he bounced back from his worst practice to have his best practice so far.
  5. Lance is still trying to learn his weapons. Deebo Samuel is just getting back into the flow. George Kittle has sat out several practices. So Lance is still working on learning his receivers and how they move, the subtle steps and nuances. This takes time and practice.
  6. Lance's weapons are still trying to learn him. There have been several dropped passes this training camp. Lance throws a very different ball than Garoppolo. It takes time to adjust to a new QB. Even the great Jerry Rice had to learn to adjust from Joe Montana to Steve Young. Mostly because Young was a lefty, but every quarterback is different.
  7. The offensive line is in flux. Not only is the quarterback new, but so is 60% of the offensive line. By all accounts, Lance has pash rushers in his face immediately when he gets the ball. This leads me to the last reason I'm not concerned...
  8. Lance is playing against the league's best defense. And he's facing them every day. This will only make him better.

Kyle Shanahan isn't concerned either. He'll stick with Lance and let him have his growing pains.

Remember, multiple beat writers for the team are on record saying the best QB they ever watched in training camp was Brian Hoyer. And he was terrible when the regular season began. Take a look at this tweet, when Matt Maiocco, of NBS Sports Bay Area, responded to my tweet about this very thing. And then read some responses to his comment from other beat writers. This should tell you all you need to know. Training camp is rarely an indicator of how a quarterback will perform during the season.

How little will the 1st team O-line play? - Christopher C.

I assume you're asking how much the first-team offensive line will play Friday night.

I would expect Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey will not play, or will barely play. The rest of the first-team offensive line will probably play a few series because they're young and inexperienced. It would surprise me if Shanahan held them all out, but it's possible he does.

How much will the starters play on Friday? - Eddie Sr.

I would not expect to see guys like Williams, McGlinchey, Samuel, Kittle or Nick Bosa. If any of them do play, it will be a very short appearance. We know Emmanuel Mosley won't play. I doubt Charvarius Ward does either.

The biggest question is what to do with Lance. He needs the reps, but if Williams and McGlinchey aren't playing, do you want Lance running for his life behind this young offensive line? I would think not, but again, he needs reps. Lance will play at least a series or two, depending on how well they go. Shanahan said Lance will play on Friday, but that he hasn't decided how much.

Why Kyle doesn't use Juice enough down the stretch? - Uncle Wayne

Are you asking why doesn't Shanahan use Kyle Juszczyk more down the stretch in big games? If that's what you're asking, that's an interesting question. We all know what happened in Super Bowl LIV and the NFC Championship Game, when the 49ers blew a 10-point, 4th quarter lead in each game to lose them both.

What you may not remember is how Shanahan went away from his key players in those two games. Consider this:

  • In Super Bowl LIV, Raheem Mostert, the team's best offensive weapon in the 2019 postseason, touched the ball only four times in the 4th quarter.
  • Kittle touched the ball once in the 4th quarter.
  • Samuel, who might have been named Super Bowl MVP if the 49ers held on, did not touch the ball at all in the final quarter.

  • In the NFC Championship, Samuel, the 49ers' best player in 2021, only touched the ball once.
  • Kittle had zero touches.

So not only has Juszczyk not been used enough down the stretch, but players even better than he is didn't see the ball late in those games. Only Shanahan can answer that.

It would seem that in a tight, big game when you need to run the ball, giving Juszczyk more opportunities to touch the ball or open lanes for others, would be ideal. But so would getting the ball into the hands of your star players.

If you're asking why Juszczyk doesn't get the ball down the stretch of the season more, I would guess it would be because he's more of a blocker and weapon they use on special occasions to catch the defense off guard. Either way, he should get the ball more.

Has there been any noticeable improvement in the special teams' units thus far in camp? - Niner Jim

Robbie Gould certainly thinks so. He was a guest recently on Matt Maiocco's "49ers Talk" Podcast. Gould believes the hiring of Special Teams coach, Brian Schneider, is breathing new life into a unit that was terrible last season, with the exception of one very notable, snowy game.

"His philosophy of playing aggressive and techniques that we use are very similar to what we want to do on offense and defense," Gould said. "Great to have three phases playing the exact same style of football, and he's going bring a lot to the table to help guys get in the right matchups, get in the right scheme, put them in the right position to be successful."

The special teams unit not only has changed coaches and techniques, but they have added some key players the team believes will make a great impact, such as linebacker Oren Burks, wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud and safety George Odum. And I think there may be some young players who end up making a name for themselves on special teams this season, as well. And according to Schneider, he really wanted all three of the veteran players the team added.

McCloud also thinks that the 49ers' offseason changes will bring about better special teams play, noting, "We've got dogs in the room. You can see intensity at practice. I think this year it's going to be different."

I also remember hearing another 49ers player recently talk about how the special teams unit looks much better than last year (sorry, I didn't write down who it was). So yes, special teams has improved, and it's noticeable.

Do you think the 49ers should get that 2023 1st round pick back they traded to Miami since the Dolphins were stripped of it? - Phil

Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. The 49ers traded away that draft pick, meaning they no longer have any right to it. The Miami Dolphins squandered it by doing things they weren't supposed to be doing. So they lost it. But the 49ers won't be getting it back. All it means is that every team behind the Dolphins' first-round slot will move up one spot. Sadly, there is no 'first right of refusal' that would bring the draft pick back home where it belongs.

As for whether I think the 49ers should get the pick back—even though I'd love it, I would still say 'no.' That just seems like it would be a mess for the NFL. Sorry, Phil. It was a great thought, though.

Thanks so much for all your questions. We'll have another 49ers mailbag next week.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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