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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers mailbag: Why has George Kittle been forgotten? When will Jimmie Ward and Jason Verrett play? And other questions answered

Marc Adams
Oct 6, 2022 at 8:41 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers got back on track with a big win over the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. We opened up the mailbag to see what 49ers fans were thinking. But before we get into the mailbag, here are a handful of things I came away with after watching the 49ers win over the Rams:

  • Kyle Shanahan called a really good game. This was great to see, because the week before, I didn't feel he had a good game. Even coaches can have an off-night.
  • Likewise, Jimmy Garoppolo was much better than his horrible showing in Denver.
  • Spencer Burford wasn't quite ready for Aaron Donald. But in his defense, who is? I mean, other than Daniel Brunskill.
  • Ray-Ray McCloud always hovers between "almost breaking a return for a touchdown, and fumbling the game away." He's both exciting and terrifying.
  • Deommodore Lenior had a great game. I'm still surprised he replaced Samuel Womack, but the coaches must have seen something in practice.
  • Deebo Samuel is such a star. Imagine if the 49ers had traded him in the offseason, as some were predicting, and he was doing this stuff for another team. John Lynch and Shanahan would look like idiots.
  • I love seeing Kyle Juszczyk touch the ball. I'm not sure why the 49ers don't use him more often. He makes plays.
  • Talanoa Hufanga keeps making plays. His pick-6 saved the day for the 49ers. I still remember fans being mad that Lynch didn't sign or draft a safety in the offseason. I wonder if those fans are still angry.
  • The 49ers' defense is elite. They had seven sacks, 11 QB hits, 17 pressures, and two takeaways. And they're on a historic pace so far. Who knows if they can keep that up, but so far they look like one of the best defenses ever.

Ok, those are the thoughts I quickly jotted down right after the game. Now let's get to the mailbag:

I have a theory. Kyle doesn't want a top 10 QB because of the cap issues that creates. Kyle wants Steve Young/Josh Allen-ish but someone out of the top 10....and healthy? Thoughts? - DoctorWDS

Sorry, Doctor, but I don't really agree with your theory. When the 49ers re-signed Garoppolo, after the 2017 season, he was the highest-paid quarterback (yearly average) in league history. It didn't last long, but they were willing to pay the guy they believed would be the starter for many years. And don't forget the fact that Shanahan wanted Kirk Cousins, another highly-paid QB.

So I do think they are willing to pay the right quarterback. If the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills called, wanting to trade Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, I think the 49ers would jump at the chance to pay them. And let's not forget that they tried to trade for Aaron Rodgers last year.

With the secondary playing lights out so far, will the 49ers take it slow with J. Ward and Verrett eligible to return this week? I could see Ward getting his starting job back right away, but would Verrett replace Moseley or play in the slot? - Niner Jim

Yes, I believe they will take it slow, considering how well the secondary is playing, and how healthy they currently are.

Jason Verrett and Jimmie Ward returned to practice this week. That's a great sign, but I don't expect them to play anytime soon. Ward should be closer, as he went through training camp and preseason, and his injury wasn't the season-ending type. But Verrett had a much bigger injury to overcome.

If I was going to make a prediction, I would bet they keep both out until after the bye, as long as the secondary stays healthy. The 49ers are at Carolina and Atlanta, followed by a home game against Kansas City, before traveling to Inglewood to play the Rams. Then they have their bye.

But it's also possible they keep Ward out the next two games and bring him back for the Chiefs. Regardless, I would think Verrett is out until after the bye. When he does return, Verrett will not be replacing Emmanuel Moseley. Moseley is playing very well, and will likely hold on to his starting spot. This is, of course, contingent on injuries.

How long til we see Danny Gray? - Chris Wahl

Danny Gray has been dealing with a hip injury, but was back at practice on Wednesday.

Gray is more of a Trey Lance type of receiver, due to Garoppolo not throwing downfield near as often, but the 49ers still need to use the rookie wide receiver. For starters, defenses stack the box against the 49ers' offense because they don't fear any vertical threat from Garoppolo. Having Gray play more can help with that.

Also, Gray needs to develop. The team lost out on a year of development for Lance. It would be unfortunate to have the same thing happen to Gray.

To answer your question, Chris, I would expect to see Shanahan try to start working Gray into the game plan more often.

Over the last 8 games, Kittle has 21rec, 220yds and 1 TD. Ridiculous. Why do you think he's so forgotten? - DownByLaw

That's a great question, one that I've been wondering myself. In the two games he's played in 2022, George Kittle has only six receptions for 52 yards.

One obvious reason is that he's been injured so much. Another is that they use him in pass protection on some plays, and sometimes ask him to chip a pass rusher early in his route. When he does have to chip a defender, it makes him a little delayed in getting into his route. With a QB like Garoppolo, who gets rid of the ball so quickly, if Kittle is late getting into his route, it would seem like that would take away some of his targets.

For what it's worth, Shanahan told the media he wants to get Kittle more involved in the passing game, but also admitted he's not worried about it. "Kittle affects the game in so many ways, the running game and the pass," Shanahan said on Wednesday. "We definitely want to get him the ball more, but it's something we're not that concerned about."

Shanahan also said Kittle's involvement Monday night against the Rams was strategic, adding, "That's always the case with the Rams," Shanahan said. "You usually get less opportunities, just with our protection game plan, and our run game plan. I know it's been the case in some other games too but usually with the Rams, it's harder."

Kittle is too good to not be a bigger factor in the passing game. I think it's probably not a big deal. But if it continues, I may start to be concerned.

Jimmy G was the highest-rated player on offense against the Rams by PFF. - Ryder Ramirez

When the 49ers' game plan plays to Garoppolo's strength, which is getting the ball out quickly, they have success, and the QB plays well. And when they are able to run the ball, Garoppolo usually plays even better.

It's when the play breaks down, or when Garoppolo has to hold on to the ball longer, that things implode.

But I agree, Garoppolo played well on Monday night.

With a Top 2 Defense and the team getting key players back like Eli Mitchell, Trent Williams, Jimmie Ward, Kinlaw and Armstead, do you see the 49ers hoisting the Lombardi next February? - Johnny Xuefing Yang

I think the 49ers have as good of a chance as any team. But there are three factors that have to go right, if they are going to win it all:

  1. They have to stop losing multiple players to injury every game. And they need to stay healthy at key spots. That means players like Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Trent Williams, Samuel, Fred Warner, Charvarius Ward and Garoppolo can't be missing games.
  2. They have to start running the ball better, and keep at it all season long.
  3. They need to learn how to close out big games in the postseason. That means Shanahan needs to keep calling a strong game (like he did Monday night), the offense's best players need to take over the games down the stretch (unlike Super Bowl LIV and the NFC Championship Game), and Garoppolo needs to step up in those big moments, rather than folding under the pressure.

If they can do these things, they'll be hoisting Lombardi number six in February 2023.

Looking at next year - The 49ers are going to need a QB, do they draft a developmental guy, Sign a vet FA? or find a way to bring Jimmy back? - DoctorWDS

This is a confusing question, because the 49ers have a quarterback for 2023. They drafted him number three overall last year.

Trey Lance isn't dead, or crippled. He'll be back. He has the same injury Dak Prescott suffered in 2020. Prescott came back last season and played really well. There's no reason why Lance can't do the same.

It's possible they bring in a veteran QB next year to back up Lance. I would recommend it. But so far, they haven't shown any indication that makes me think they will do so. After all, they were trying to trade Garoppolo even through training camp. Had they done so, the 49ers would have played Monday night with either Nate Sudfeld or Brock Purdy.

Regardless, I don't see any chance that Garoppolo returns to San Francisco in 2023. But I also didn't expect to see him on the team in 2022. It will be another interesting offseason, with questions about where Garoppolo ends up, as well as more anti-Lance haters labeling him a bust after a total of only 14 NFL quarters played.

Thanks for all your great questions. We'll see you back in the 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.


  • Runner
    R u kidding me. Kittle is doing so much work with blocking assignments. He is involved in every big play. He is still pro bowl even with just one catch. Know football
    Oct 6, 2022 at 5:07 PM
  • Izyniner
    I don’t think they can wait till after the bye week to activate Ward and Verrett. Once they open the window off the IR or PUP they have 21 days to activate the player or they revert back to the IR and there season is over.
    Oct 6, 2022 at 1:25 PM

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