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Mailbag: What’s the 49ers biggest weakness? Will Brock Purdy be QB1 in 2023? What happens if Jimmy Garoppolo returns in postseason?

Marc Adams
Dec 28, 2022 at 9:03 AM--

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There are only two regular season games remaining for the San Francisco 49ers. Then the real fun begins. Along with the real stress, high blood pressure, pounding heart, etc. That's postseason football. The deeper you advance, the greater the anxiety. But the payoff is worth it.

As the team prepares for the playoffs, we're rounding into form in the 49ers Webzone Mailbag department, as well. We're getting healthy and peaking at the right time.

Let's take a look at your great questions and our championship-level responses.

With Jimmy G remaining on the active roster only means there's still hope that he may return for the playoffs. IF and WHEN Jimmy G does return, do you see Shanahan starting Jimmy G or staying with Purdy and keeping Jimmy at backup? - Johnny Y.

I feel certain that Kyle Shanahan would stay with the hot hand. If Brock Purdy is still playing well, he will be the guy. If he's struggling, then maybe Jimmy Garoppolo would take over. I don't think Garoppolo would get the start, but maybe if the 49ers are losing and Purdy isn't playing well, then Garoppolo would come in and play.

Keep in mind that if Garoppolo returns, it likely wouldn't be until later, around the NFC Championship Game. At that point, he would have missed almost two months. You would have to expect that he would be a little rusty.

So if you're hoping to see Garoppolo play meaningful football in the postseason, it won't happen unless Purdy starts looking like a lost rookie.

What is the Niners' biggest concern going into the playoffs? - Uncle Salty

My biggest concerns for the 49ers going into the postseason are:

  1. Health: If the 49ers can stay healthy, they have what it takes to win the Super Bowl. If they have to deal with injuries, especially at certain positions, they will be more vulnerable to losing a game they shouldn't lose.
  2. Secondary: The 49ers have already lost Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett. If they lose Charvarius Ward, then they're in trouble. They will have a group of first and second-year corners out there, along with Jimmie Ward in the slot. Add to that a safety in Tashaun Gipson, who isn't the fastest of the bunch, and a young safety in Talanoa Hufanga, who seems to blow a coverage every game, and you have a group that could potentially give up some big plays. Especially in a game where the pass rush may not be as effective.
  3. Quarterback: My biggest concern coming into this season was the lack of experience from Trey Lance. Purdy actually now has more NFL experience than Lance does, but he's still a barely-drafted rookie QB who has played less than half of the season. Will he keep playing at this level once the postseason comes?

How can the 49ers best improve their 3rd down defense, even just a little, to get off the field faster? - Niner Jim

Keep getting after the quarterback, and stop making mistakes in coverage. If this defense plays like they're capable, they are dominant.

There are times, however, that they are a little too "bend, but don't break" for my taste. No defense is going to have a 3-and-out every time they go out there, and yet they're so good, you sometimes expect them to do just that.

The biggest thing is to stop making mental mistakes, especially the penalties that have allowed offenses to keep the ball. The defense has let offenses off the hook too many times on 3rd down.

To me, this biggest surprise of the season - with so many new pleasant surprises - is the play of the offense line, particularly the interior guys- Banks, Brendel, Burford, Brunskill. Is the Oline as good as I think it is? Does PFF rank it highly? Does Forrester get credit (Lynch?) - MarinBoy

The offensive line has played well this season, better than many expected. Aaron Banks has been steady, and so has Spencer Burford. Jake Brendel even got some love around the league when it came to Pro Bowl voting. Daniel Brunskill has been good, too.

Of course, Trent Williams has been great, like we all expected him to be. And though I'm often hard on Mike McGlinchey, the drive-killer, it came out that he's been playing with a broken rib for much of the season. So I should give him credit for that. He's a tough dude.

I personally don't pay much attention to PFF (Pro Football Focus) grades. Mainly because I sometimes see a grade on a player, and I don't understand how the grade was assigned. In my eyes, the player played one way, but PFF scored him another way.

As for Chris Forrester, the offensive line coach, he definitely should be given credit for the play of the line. He was the one who pushed for the team to sign Brendel, and it's his responsibility to coach these young guys up. He's done a nice job.

John Lynch, the Front Office, and the scouting department deserve some credit for drafting or signing these players.

And of course, Shanahan deserves some credit. His scheme makes these guys look better than they probably are, with the exception of Williams. He'd be good in any system.

And don't forget about Purdy and Garoppolo, who get the ball out quickly.

What is our biggest weakness that could stop us to beat Dallas/Eagles to win the NFC and the Bills/Bengals/Chiefs to win it all? Purdy's inexperience or the secondary? - Jose

As I wrote above, I think it's injuries, secondary and quarterback. In most situations, we might expect a very young QB like Purdy to be the biggest weakness. But I'm not sure that's the case here.

A lot of it will depend on who the 49ers play. A team like Philadelphia could cause some problems for Purdy. Dallas has a good defense. We just saw how good Washington's defense is. Those teams could pose a problem for Purdy and the offense.

But Kansas City and Buffalo will be more of a problem for the defense, specifically the secondary. The Eagles may, as well, considering how mobile Jalen Hurts is, and how that style of QB has been this defense's kryptonite.

The Cincinnati receivers could be a handful, especially if Charvarius Ward is injured.

Looking ahead: if Purdy makes a deep playoff run and continues mistake-free football, who starts for the Niners next season? - Shaman4646

A lot of fans and media have been asking the same question. What does Purdy need to do to go into the 2023 season as the 49ers starting QB? It's really too difficult and too early to answer this. As you'll recall, Trey Lance was the starter heading in 2022. But his injury, and that of Garoppolo, has opened the door for Purdy.

So will Purdy kick the door down and refuse to give the starting position to anyone else? Or will he show us why he was the last player drafted in 2022? That remains to be seen.

I asked 49ers fans on Twitter, "What will it take to convince you that Brock Purdy should be the 49ers starting QB in 2023?" Here's how they responded:

  • 33.4%- Beat out Trey Lance in camp
  • 25.5%- Win the Super Bowl
  • 20.9%- Make a deep playoff run
  • 20.2%- I'm already convinced

As you can see, the winning option is that fans would still want to see Purdy have to beat out Lance. But it's interesting to note, that the majority of fans in the poll (66.6%) have seen enough, or will be convinced by a deep playoff run or Super Bowl title.

Here's what a few fans said in the comment section:

"Not that I'm complaining, but It would be very Shanny-like for a 7th-round pick to be the starting QB after picking a QB with the #3 pick." (Danny)

"Need an 'I'm good with whoever Shanahan picks' option." (Eric)

"No matter what, I believe there should be a QB competition in camp." (Jason)

"If the 49ers steamroll to a Superbowl victory with Brock playing well, he should probably be the guy. Anything else, I think it should be a camp competition." (Joe)

"How is it fair to Purdy to have a 'competition' when the job was just plainly gifted to Trey last season? You don't need a 'camp competition', Trey has already lost the on-field competition given the most advantageous situation imaginable. Trey is done, move on." (Ziggy)

"LOL, this is funny. If Purdy wins a Super Bowl, there's no question he should be QB1. Winning a Super Bowl with a rookie, having the experience of getting there and winning it, what is there to compete about? LOL." (Dennis)

So as you can see, there are plenty of differing opinions on this. I'm with Eric. We'll just let Shanahan decide.

If the 49ers win the Super Bowl, does Trey get his starting job back, open competition, or QB controversy? - UWaryr

I'm not sure it will even take a Super Bowl appearance to decide it. At this point, the only way I see Lance getting back his starting job, without a QB competition, is if Purdy is horrible in the playoffs and looks like he doesn't belong. Even then, I think there might still be a QB competition.

Let me give my best guess (and this is only a guess):

  • If the 49ers get knocked out of the playoffs early, and it's because of Brock Purdy, there will be an open competition. And I'd give Lance the edge, considering what was paid for him (draft picks) and his upside.
  • If the 49ers make it to the NFC Championship Game or Super Bowl and lose, it will be an open competition. I'd give Purdy the edge because his teammates and coaches seem to have more faith in him than they do in Lance.
  • If the 49ers win the Super Bowl, I think there could be a QB controversy, meaning there may be a competition for the job, but the players may not see that as necessary.

Regardless of what happens, I think there will be a competition, and whoever is named the starter will have earned it.

Are we putting Saturday's poor secondary performance down to Washington having a couple of very good receivers or is it a concern? - TheGreavance

It's a concern to me, especially when Charvarius Ward goes down.

That said, the defense may have just been a little off on Saturday, and may have had a letdown game, considering they clinched the division the week before.

They also were playing more to stop the run. Drake Jackson was inactive Saturday because the 49ers wanted more beef inside to deal with Washington's run game. So it may just have been that the focus was more on the run game.

But Ward did miss a handful of plays, and the Commanders picked on Samuel Womack, Ward's replacement. And of course, Hufanga had his weekly blown coverage.

It is a little concerning, but I think as long as Ward is healthy, they should be fine. Then again, if they're facing Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, there will be plenty to be concerned about.

Will Kittle still make me carry his bags during the playoffs? - Brock P.

Hi, Brock. Thanks for reading. I can't believe George Kittle is still making you carry his bags. Tell him you're the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, and that he can carry his own freaking bags.

Thank you for all your questions. Let's catch up again next week and talk more 49ers football.
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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