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Jimmy Garoppolo Season Review Part 3: Against the Blitz

Apr 7, 2018 at 2:31 PM


This is part 3 of a 5-part series examining Jimmy Garoppolo's 2017 season. Today, we look at the quarterback against the blitz. Part 1 and part 2 are hyperlinked at the bottom of this article.


In part 1 of this series, we examined 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's throwing accuracy. He was the 11th-best quarterback in accuracy rating in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. In part 2 of this series, we looked how he was successful under pressure. Under pressure, he led the NFL in completion percentage (33-53, 62.3% completion) and yards per attempt (8.3 YPA).

Today, we examine him against the blitz and why he was successful.

Against the blitz, Garoppolo led the league in yards per attempt with 9.7 YPA and was second in completion percentage when faced with an extra rusher at 68.1%. Exact stats for completed passes to attempts against the blitz are unknown, but he did post a 97.9 passer rating, which is 6 points above the league average against the blitz.

Let's take a closer look at how and why he was successful.

Against the Bears late in the 3rd quarter, the 49ers line up in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) on a 3rd-and-8 at the Chicago 35-yard line.



The 49ers are running a variant of Shanahan's cross-country dagger concept (deep dig by the outside receiver, inside crosser/post) and the Bears are showing a blitz look with six defenders in the box, plus a widened nickel defender splitting the difference between receiver Trent Taylor in the slot and left tackle Joe Statey. Garoppolo brings in tight end George Kittle to the backfield for a delayed route out to the right flat after checking the pass rush.



At the snap, the Bears send Fangio's staple tackle-end stunt with a blitzing nickel defender from the two-receiver side as the edge rusher on the right drops into a zone.





Garoppolo looks right briefly before noticing the blitz from the left and the vacated area across the middle. This brief look to the right holds the dropping zone defender from dropping into the middle to take away the slant.



As Garoppolo comes back to the left, the edge rusher, who stunted around the defensive tackle, runs free through the A-gap. Garoppolo quickly processes this and knows that he has Taylor open for a brief moment across the middle and side-arms a beautiful pass around the blitzer into the void for Taylor. As he releases, Garoppolo gets hit but not before the play goes for a gain of 15.

The 49ers offensive line was no stranger to giving up pressure and not being able to block or pick up blitzing defenders effectively. Garoppolo was under pressure against Houston 47.2% of the time, yet completed 8 of 17 passes under pressure for 147 yards, according to Pro Football Focus' charting.



The 49ers line up in 21 personnel with Goodwin out wide to the right. They are running a flat-7 combo to the short side of the field while Goodwin is running an iso route against the man coverage to the right.



The Texans were one of the top blitzing teams last season (data is unavailable, but through week 5, they were 2nd in blitz rate per PFF). Against the 49ers formation here, they are running a "green dog" blitz. On a green dog blitz, usually a middle linebacker or safety will come on a delayed blitz against to the opposite gap once he sees his man coverage assignment stay in to pass block. The other outside defenders contain rush to keep the quarterback in the pocket or "add" to the blitz front if their "coverage" blocks at the point of attack (tight end) or stays in on protection.

The post snap look shows running back Carlos Hyde stay in to pass block. Once linebacker Bernadrick McKinney (#55) sees this, he comes on the green dog blitz to the open gap opposite Hyde and Hyde can't get over in time to chip him.



Against this blitz, Garoppolo takes a 7-step drop plus a hitch, allowing the blitz to develop as he waits for Goodwin to get open. Garoppolo has no choice but to hitch step as it marries with the timing of Goodwin's route and this forces him into the heart of the Texans' blitz. As he releases the ball, McKinney delivers a shot and knocks him to the turf. He still completes the pass with precision in the face of a nasty hit.

The 49ers faced another blitz-happy team in week 15, the Tennessee Titans. Like the Texans, there is also no data on blitz percentage for the entire season, but through week 5, the Titans were blitzing 40% of the time and against the 49ers, had Garoppolo under pressure on 39% of his drop backs. Garoppolo was under pressure on 18 passes and completed 15 for 135 yards.



The 49ers' favorite personnel grouping is on the field again, 21 personnel. They are running a simple 2 route concept with Goodwin out to the left running a deep pivot route and Kendrick Bourne running a post route from the right side of the formation.



Titans' defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau likes to blitz from everywhere utilizing zone blitzes and on this particular play, he utilizes a 5-man front with delayed blitz up the middle and a blitzing defensive back from the defense's right.



The 49ers do a decent job of picking up the blitzing defenders, allowing Garoppolo to stand in and deliver a strike over the middle to Bourne with a defender all over him, allowing them to pick up the first down.

In the second quarter on 3rd-and-6 on the Titans' 14-yard line, the 49ers again show 20 personnel. The 49ers are running the "mesh concept."



The mesh concept usually involves two receivers crossing underneath at a "mesh point" over the middle. The offense can add additional elements to further laterally or vertically stretch a defense.



Just before the snap, the Titans defense shifts eight defenders down into the box, tipping their hand that they will be blitzing on an obvious 3rd-and-6 situation. At the snap, the Titans send seven rushers against six blockers.



Garoppolo starts out looking at the mesh receivers running across the middle. Running back Carlos Hyde misreads the blitz and lets a free rusher through the B-gap, forcing Garoppolo to throw a quick pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk running a wheel route out of the backfield.

Thanks to his quick release and arm strength, Garoppolo gets the pass off and completes it in just enough time before the defender arrives to hit him. He doesn't take a hit, but he also is not able to step into the throw due to the timing of Juszczyk coming open and the free blitzer getting into the backfield.

In part 4 of this series, we'll take a look Garoppolo and play action. You can read the other articles in this series at the links below.

Jimmy Garoppolo Season Review Part 1: Accuracy

Jimmy Garoppolo Season Review Part 2: Under Pressure

All gifs and images courtesy of the NFL.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


1 Comment

  • thl
    Good stuff. It's crazy to think Jimmy hasn't had 10 career starts yet and the game already seems to have slowed down for him. He's started that he likes it when defenses blitz because it makes the coverage easier to read. This may have been after the TEN game. Nice to have a QB that looks to quickly get rid of the ball in the face of pressure instead of looking to evade.
    Apr 7, 2018 at 8:15 PM
    1

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