On October 8, 2017, the Indianapolis Colts will host the San Francisco 49ers. In this week five match up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea for what we’re up against. The 49ers are just three years removed from firing the best coach they’ve had since Bill Walsh. The last time our Colts played these 49ers we saw Ahmad Bradshaw and the offensive line out-Harbaugh, Harbaugh. The Colts ran the ball and stopped the run. They were able to shut down Colin Kaepernick (impressive in 2013). A lot of faces have changed for both teams since 2013, including new GM John Lynch, hopefully that turnover won’t hurt our chances this time around. Let’s figure out what we can expect in week five.
Kyle Shanahan’s Scheme
Shanahan, that name sounds familiar for some reason. It’s almost like I’ve heard it before. I want to say a relative of his was on the Broncos coaching staff back in the day. Worked with Elway I think. I want to say this guy coached under George Seifert and Dan Reeves. Seems like the guy was one of six head coaches to win back to back Super Bowls. I think he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame. Oh that’s right, his dad is Mike Shanahan.
So the kid’s dad has a couple Super Bowl rings and 170 career wins. So what. He’s just riding his fathers coattails, right? I mean Mike’s been at 49ers practices pretty regularly. He’s just using his dad’s system and knowledge to get ahead. Kind of. Wouldn’t you?
No one gets a head coaching job in the NFL solely because of their last name. You might become an assistant tight ends coach in the NFL solely because of your last name, but no one’s just going to slot you in to lead a team because your dad was good at it. Shanahan has made the most of his opportunities, he’s worked hard, and he led the Falcons offense to a Super Bowl berth in 2016. Yeah, his last name is Shanahan and yeah he’s had chances other people don’t get, but he’s earned his head coaching gig.
How much of his system is like his fathers?
It makes sense that he borrows from his father’s run game. Mike had an unprecedented level of production from his running backs. From 2003 to 2006, the elder Shanahan had four different backs go over the century mark in consecutive years. 2003 saw Clinton Portis run for 1,591. During the 2004 season, Reuben Droughns carried for 1,240 yards. Then in 2005, the immortal Mike Anderson rushed for 1,014 yards. And who could forget 2006’s effort from Tatum Bell finishing with 1,025 yards.
Clearly elite running back talent was optional for Shanahan, something every coach would love to have. One advantage that Mike had that isn’t available to Kyle is offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. Gibbs is considered by many to be the godfather of modern zone blocking schemes.
Kyle Shanahan isn’t getting the 76-year-old out of retirement, but fortunately for him (and really all football coaches everywhere) there are a lot of videos of Alex Gibbs teaching his secrets. [POSSIBLY NSFW] This video (broken into parts 1 and 2) is from a conference where Gibbs spent a total of 8 hours teaching fellow coaches his methods. I won’t embed that video as Alex Gibbs is a man who made a living off of commanding respect from some of the biggest, toughest guys on the planet and his language matches his resume. If your workplace cares about bad language, that video is very much NSFW.
Short of having the man himself, Shanahan often uses zone concepts in the run game, but what else? I took a look over on ninersnation.com where Miami49erFan gives us this breakdown into his own film study. An excerpt:
Kyle Shanahan’s offense uses formations and stacked route concepts to get players open. I feel his offense will work with our current roster because it employs rubs, zone floods, and often uses the running back as a primary option down the field instead of using them as another Blaine Gabbert check down on 3rd and 8. While Carlos Hyde is a bruiser, he has shown to be pretty adept at catching and running. I think Shaun Draughn will be a factor in this new offense as he has similar measurables to Falcons running back Tevin Coleman. Hyde and Draughn are very capable of being a two headed monster along the same lines of Coleman and Devonta Freeman in Atlanta. Let’s get to the film.
The play below is a great zone buster route combo. If I squint I could totally see Draughn running this route and finding the end zone in the same way. Most of our running back routes under Kelly were simply out to the flat, or they would always cross the QB in the zone read look and end up chipping a defender without ever really getting into a pattern. Here Coleman runs up the field and hits a corner route. The stacked alignment at the bottom of the field bunches the defenders into the same area. The drag route by the WR across the field and the flat curl by the TE to the outside creates a huge window in the zone and Coleman becomes wide open. Suck it Seahawks!
Disclaimer: No one on our current roster is Julio Jones. In no way am I making that comparison on this next breakdown. I could see, however, Rod Streater, a big bodied guy, winning the same way on the following route concept. First off the formation prevents the defense from truly leaning towards coverage, or towards stopping the run. You’ll see a tight formation at the top of the field to keep the linebackers honest. However at the bottom of the screen you’ll see Jones and Mohamed Sanu in a tight stack formation. Is it run? Is it pass? The offense is already winning before the play started. I recall several articles where defenders playing against Chip knew if the play was a run or pass before it was even run. Shanahan appears to be more deceptive in his approach. With Julio lining up off the line of scrimmage in a stack Richard Sherman is forced to play off coverage. That’s not his forte. Also, because of the tight formation at the top of the screen, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner get nosy and peek in the backfield, this leaves them out of position to cover the inside route. Sanu does his job and creates the rub, and Julio darts in behind him for six. Suck it again Seahawks!
The final piece of film shows something I think we lacked last year. I’m not sure who’s to blame for this offensive omission this season. On this play, based on what I see, it looks like this play was actually a called run, with a pass option. In reviewing the end zone cam angle, you’ll see combo blocks, and the offensive linemen fire off the ball. Those are usual symptoms of a running play by design, Freeman also charges the line of scrimmage. However, both WRs run fade routes, Ryan sees the one on one coverage and makes makes the quick choice to raise up and throw it to Sanu. Torrey Smith and Rod Streater are two guys we have now that can win on routes like this so I could definitely see Shanahan bringing more run pass options our way. I didn’t see many audibles this past season, I don’t believe I ever saw a pass thrown on a play designed to be a run. On a side note, Suck it again and again Seahawks!
Niners Nation has done a good job covering their new coach. If you head over there you’ll find plenty of material to complement this offering. In my hunt for more information, I came across an article from right before last year’s Super Bowl. If you don’t read anything else about Kyle Shanahan’s system, this article from Matt Bowen should be it. It goes over the 15 plays Bowen calls Shanahan’s go-to’s.
I’ll give you the first three plays Bowen covers but you should really take a look at that article.
Note: For my money ESPN misses far more than they hit. I actually don’t remember the last time I sat down to watch anything other than a live sporting event on one of their networks, with that said Matt Bowen is a light in what has otherwise become a very dark hole which once existed as the world wide leader in sports.
The Falcons led the NFL in multiple categories when running play-action during the regular season, such as passes thrown (133), yards per attempt (11.8) and total passing yards (1,531).
That's what we see here on the cross-country dagger out of a standard pro I slot formation with wide receivers Julio Jones (Z) and Mohamed Sanu (X) stacked outside. This is a deep clear-out concept, with quarterback Matt Ryan (Q) using the weakside play-action to running back Devonta Freeman (H) to bring the second-level defenders to the line of scrimmage.
That opens up an inside throwing window to hit Jones on the 15-yard dig-route (square-in) while Sanu bends the seam to run off the top of the secondary. It's a high-percentage throw for Ryan (inside breaking route) with Jones working to the vacated area of the field.
The Falcons ranked fifth overall during the regular season with 120.5 rushing yards per game, and the outside zone (or stretch) is one of the top calls in Shanahan's playbook. It caters to the athleticism of the Falcons' offensive line and the skill set of both Freeman and Tevin Coleman (footwork, vision, speed through the hole).
With the offensive line taking a "zone step" (step to play side) and chipping to the second-level linebackers, the running backs have options after getting the handoff deep in the backfield. Freeman or Coleman (H) can "bounce" the ball outside of the tight end (Y), hit the "bang" or cut the ball back on the "bend." It's up to the RB to make the correct read based on the blocking up front and the pursuit of the linebackers. This is another reason the vision of the Falcons' running backs is so critical. See the field. Make one cut. And go.
Working off the outside zone scheme look, Shanahan will lean on the boot concept. This allows Ryan to set the bait for the linebackers with a play-action fake before rolling away from the initial play side on the boot action.
The idea is to take advantage of poor defensive eye discipline (failure to read run-pass keys) while giving Ryan (and his underrated mobility) a two-level read and clean throwing windows outside of the pocket. Sanu (Z) runs the deep out (or comeback), Taylor Gabriel (W) works back on the crossing route and tight end Austin Hooper (Y) releases late to the flat. Ryan's initial read is to the front side of the formation off the play-action, as Jones (X) likely will occupy two defenders downfield on the post.
Look for this boot scheme on Sunday, when the Falcons have the ball in the "strike zone" (Patriots' 20-35-yard line) or the red zone.
One thing I noticed in my watching of the first three weeks of 49ers games was the amount of motion they tend to use. It wouldn’t surprise me to see tight ends line up on either side of the line, only to have one TE shift to the slot, while the other TE motions across the formation replacing the TE who now is in the slot.
Using motion in this way is a staple of the Air Coryell offense, though this offense is more aligned with a West Coast Offense. This motion accomplishes a few things. It attempts to confuse a defense by making them shift roles and adjust on the fly. Another thing it does is allows Brian Hoyer to get an idea what look the secondary is giving him.
Given they’re doing all they can to help him make these pre-snap reads, if he can’t effectively read what the defense is doing after the snap, it may not matter. So can Brian Hoyer actually read a defense?
Quarterback: Brian Hoyer, Was He Really The Best They Could Do?
Amazingly, the answer to that question is probably affirmative. Hoyer fits what Shanahan wants to do, in that he knows his offense having worked together in Cleveland. As a first time head coach without a franchise quarterback anywhere near the roster, having someone with this familiarity can be invaluable.
That doesn’t change the fact that the answer to the question I posed above is absolutely, no, Brian Hoyer can’t read a defense.
Not in real time anyway. In the film room I’m sure he’s a superstar. When watching film, I’m pretty good at identifying defensive concepts. Put me on a field with live action and I probably wouldn’t start for most middle school football programs in Indiana. Brian Hoyer would, but again, once bullets start flying he makes at MOST two reads and the ball is out.
Fortunately for him he’s working with a head coach that designs plays that will allow him to make mostly single reads. Robert Griffin III won a rookie of the year award without ever really understanding an NFL defense. He owes that trophy to Kyle Shanahan (his Heisman Trophy he owes to his otherworldly athleticism for the QB position). So let’s take a look:
- Staring Down His Receiver:
At the snap his head turned directly to his right and he watched the out route the entire time. Obviously it was his read. That was his first (and likely only real option on the play) and he decided to test Trumaine Johnson, and as I pointed out in my week 1 scouting report of the Rams, that’s not a good idea.
This play design created a high-low read. I’m honestly not sure what the order of his reads are on this play. Normally there’s a backside drag route, but here they give a different look. What follows is my best guess.
If the defense follows the in-breaking receiver and drops down on the TE, the outside receiver will sit in the zone and be wide open for a big gainer. Instead, the defense does the correct thing (because their DC is Wade Phillips) and covers the deeper routes leaving the TE open underneath.
This is the type of read you’re going to see from Hoyer. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s a read every NFL QB should be able to make and execute accordingly.
- Works Like A Charm:
I don’t care who your quarterback is, I love this play and other variations of it. I didn’t mean to do this, I swear, but looking back at my week one report on the Rams offense shows that the Rams have this same goal line concept in their playbook as well:
Anyway, it’s a great concept and when executed well, like the two plays above, it works. Again this was a simple read. It is as safe as a pass gets on the goal line. If the QB’s No. 1 option isn’t open on this play, that ball is in the stands.
- Yankee Concept
If you clicked my link to Matt Bowen’s story above, you’ll notice this is the Yankee Concept he noted as a favorite of Shanahan’s. (You’d also notice the Hi-Lo Mesh, but I’ll let it go). If you want another crack at clicking the link, here you go.
This is a throw Hoyer shouldn’t have made. I would like to think Malik Hooker gets another INT if he throws this ball up against our Colts. He forces the ball into double coverage and luckily for him, his WR works back and keeps it out of the hands of the defense.
- Again, Single Read:
This down sees play action, three verticals and a late breaking route at the bottom of the screen. Hoyer gets the look that he wants and never looks away. To give credit where it’s due, he does place this ball well, but he should, his target had a 2-yard cushion and he’s an NFL quarterback.
- Verticals Concept Backside Drag:
Here Hoyer, looks left and from the sideline angle it was pretty obvious he had no intention of going that way with the ball. He was looking the defense off in hopes that the drag would be open.
On this play, it was.
- When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong:
This play works if Luke Kuechly wasn’t the best inside linebacker in the game. If he bites on the play action, it’s probably a completion. Instead he does what Kuechly does, takes a read step, realizes none of the linemen are run blocking and drops into coverage.
Hoyer just assumed Kuechly would bite. He never saw him, because why would he be there? Did he not see that sweet play action? No, he saw it completely, and as a result of Hoyer’s in ability to actually read a defense, this one’s going the other way.
- When The LB Doesn’t Cheat As Much As You Thought:
Again, Hoyer doesn’t see it. He counts on the LB taking himself out of the play, and he fires the ball straight to the defense.
If Ted Monachino isn’t on top of this part of Hoyer’s game, I would be shocked. If he can convince our safeties and linebackers to stay home when Hoyer looks hard one direction or another, it’s going to result in a big day for our defense.
- When His First Option Is Gone:
I didn’t notice this very often, but this sack is on Hoyer. He has to get that ball out sooner, and since he can’t progress through his reads the way good NFL quarterbacks can, he’ll end up holding the ball too long like he does here.
I’ve spent this entire section ripping Brian Hoyer to shreds, but I want to make something clear. Hoyer is better at playing the sport of football than most people reading this will ever be at anything. That’s not an indictment of anyone's value to the world, but rather the fact that playing NFL football is difficult and playing quarterback in the NFL is insanely difficult. What Brian Hoyer is doing week in and week out is incredible, just because he isn’t Manning or Brady or even the other Manning or Cutler, doesn’t mean he isn’t doing something great when looked at in the right context.
So take that for what it’s worth. I respect Hoyer. As a former UDFA, he’s carved out an amazing career, all things considered. It’s just at this level he’s going to have to lean on the talent around him to win consistently. Well really he’ll need to, to win at all.
Running Backs: Maybe The 49ers Best Position Group
In 2015 Frank Gore signed with our Colts after backing out on a deal with the Eagles, I actually went to training camp that summer and I had a chance to talk to him while he was signing kids’ autographs. I told him he made the right decision and that Colts fans were glad he was here. I still believe Frank made the best decision for his career. In Philly he would have been cut during the post-Chip Kelly purge.
If Frank were honest with you, I’m sure he would tell you he would have liked to stay in San Francisco for his entire career. I don’t think anyone could blame him for that, but the 49ers had other plans.
Carlos Hyde was the other plan. In 2014, Hyde’s rookie year, he showed promise and looked like he could be a new long-term answer in San Francisco’s backfield. Two seasons have been played since that early promise and to this point in his career Hyde has been a talented but underwhelming back. His biggest issue has been staying healthy, playing in 37 of 51 games as a pro.
In Kyle Shanahan’s new system, Hyde has flashed as a one-cut runner, finding holes and picking up yards in chunks. San Francisco’s new head coach will benefit no one more than Carlos Hyde who is in a contract year. I would wager everything I’ve ever made that short of a major devastating injury Hyde isn’t coming off the field this year. This is the only chance he’ll ever have to earn a large payday and so far, he’s well on his way.
- Run Where They Ain’t:
I used to be friends with a guy who coached running backs at a small college just outside of Kansas City. Me, being who I am, asked him a lot of questions and 95% of the time his answer was the same: Run where they ain’t.
He was joking around but he had a point. Look at the strengths of both fronts. The Rams have 5 guys in the box on the left side, the 49ers line up 4.
“Run where they ain’t”
So the 49ers run it to the weak side, luckily for them Aaron Donald swims inside the playside guard and runs himself past the play. The backside guard combos with the center on the nose tackle and works up to the second level to get a hat on ILB Mark Barron. Barron didn’t play this well, but regardless this was an athletic play by guard Brandon Fusco. The result is a massive hole, Hyde makes a cut to avoid Donald and runs 20 yards untouched.
Another thing to notice about this play is it’s absolutely a zone run. You can tell as the line takes their zone step at the snap. Everyone, save for the RT who had a good angle on the DE, steps to the left to block their zone.
- Black Magic:
Again you see the 49ers run it to the light side of the defense. The line takes that zone step and opens a hole. A couple things to note on this play, Aaron Donald is really tough to block one-on-one. We dodged a bullet in week one while he was still at home holding out.
So Donald is going to make this tackle, he’s beating guard Zane Beadles. There’s no shame for Beadles here. Donald is an all pro and if he can play at his current level for another 4-6 years, he’s absolutely a Hall of Famer. With that said, the 49ers aren’t just going to take the loss and be okay with it.
Allow me to introduce fullback Kyle Juszczyk. In the offseason the 49ers made him the highest paid FB in the league and for good reason. In my opinion, $5.25 million per year is too much for a fullback in a league where fullbacks are only slightly more relevant than the wishbone offense, but the 49ers do plan to use him in more ways than a traditional fullback is used.
Anyway, Juszczyk gets a block on Donald which gets Hyde to the second level, and I’ve watched this play probably 100 times and I still can’t figure out how Hyde dips in between the receiver and Rams’ safety Cody Davis, #38. But he did and he gained nearly 10 yards after doing so.
Hyde looks good.
- Goal Line Zone Option:
One thing to note is that Shanahan has RPO’s (run-pass options) in his playbook. Knowing this, along with the threat of a Hoyer running, keeps the linebackers from keying on Hyde and coming up to make a play faster. Hyde has just enough quickness and power to make this play successful.
- Good Old Power Running
Wait, I thought you said they were a zone blocking team? I did, and that’s true, but had you clicked that link to the Matt Bowen article you would have read that part about how Shanahan will mix in some power schemes when the situation calls for it.
So that’s what happens here. The 49ers have good angles on the defenders they block, the backside guard pulls to kick out the OLB, the RT works to get a block on the backside ILB, and the FB kicks out the playside ILB.
What that means is it becomes the secondary’s job to make first contact with Matt Breida. I know we haven’t talked about Breida yet, but he’s good in his own right.
- Breida Again:
This is how I expect to see Matt Breida used most often this weekend. Look for him to be targeted out of the backfield. He might spell Hyde at various points and carry the ball some too, but he’s most dangerous as a pass catching threat. The 49ers need all the pass catchers they can get.
Wide Receiver: Yes, Pierre Garçon Is Still Alive
It’s interesting to note that the 2017 San Francisco 49ers don’t have a single receiver on their roster that played in San Francisco in 2016. I don’t mean that the starters are all different. I mean that every single guy played somewhere else last year.
Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden Jr. and Trent Taylor are all rookies. Taylor expects to see the most action on Sunday, but to this point, he only has six catches on the season. Showing the importance of familiarity to this offensive system, the 49ers brought in Aldrick Robinson and Pierre Garçon. Garçon worked with Shanahan in Washington and Robinson worked with the coach in both Washington and Atlanta.
They rounded out the receiving corps with burner Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin can fly and jump apparently. He’s the only guy in the receivers room that isn’t a rookie or that has no experience with Shanahan. So far he’s been targeted 17 times and has 6 catches on the year. He is averaging nearly 14 yards per catch and already has a 50-yard completion on the season.
Goodwin is dangerous to be sure, but he’s mostly a decoy, especially with Hoyer at the helm. So who do we need to watch out for? We need to worry about the guy Bill Polian took a 6th-round flier on in 2008: Pierre Garçon. At the time of this writing he’s on pace for more than 85 catches and 1,300 yards receiving.
Can he keep that pace? I’m not sure, but his usage reminds me a lot of later-in-his-career Reggie Wayne. You know that sweet spot where Reggie had learned how to be a crafty veteran while still having enough athleticism to be dangerous. That’s where Garçon is right now, and Shanahan is using him in many of the same ways.
A point to make, Garçon isn’t the player that Wayne was. He’s a nice receiver to be sure but I believe if Vontae Davis is 100% this could be a long day for Brian Hoyer and could see a turnover or two while forcing the ball his way.
- Took A Challenge, But Yes, It’s A Catch:
Toe-tapping catches to me are the most impressive catches possible on a football field. OBJ can keep his impossible one-handed behind the back catches. I mean those are cool but give me a tape of extended sideline catches and I’m constantly amazed.
This has to be pretty high on the most difficult catches list I’ve seen of this kind and Garçon makes it happen.
- Still Has Enough Juice:
He is still showcasing his speed, and at 31 years old he doesn’t look like he’s lost anything yet. You’ll notice he “creates” enough separation from Trumaine Johnson to make the catch cleanly. This is what I meant when I said he had become a still physically gifted, crafty veteran. Garçon appears to be at his absolute peak as an NFL player.
- Garçon Again:
Beats Josh Norman (if I remember correctly) on this iso route and makes a play. Solid work for the 10-year pro.
- The Other Angle:
This is the play I showed you above where Hoyer is looking off and Garçon finds a hole in the zone. He looks hard left to pull the ILB that direction as he’s dropping deep. It works, but as you can tell, he’s not throwing to anyone over there.
- Kittle Sighting:
Fifth-round rookie George Kittle from Iowa has made 8 catches on the season but again, doesn’t appear to be a huge factor in the offense, thus far. Note another single read.
This receiving corps isn’t the most talented or deepest bunch we’ll face this season, but they have individual pieces that will challenge our defense in interesting ways. The most dangerous weapon the 49ers have by way of their passing game is Kyle Shanahan’s ability to plan guys open.
Of course none of this matters if Hoyer isn’t getting protected, right?
Offensive Line: Another Test For Indy’s Front Seven
Based on my viewing of the 49ers three games this season, I’ve come away with the impression that their offensive line is above average. If you talk to a 49ers fan, they’re likely to disagree. I did notice they struggled some particularly on the inside, but if I had the option to trade the three interior offensive linemen who started for the Colts in week 3 for the three interior offensive linemen who started for the 49ers, I wouldn’t hesitate.
Hopefully that gives you an idea of where each teams line is currently. The Colts line is struggling (maybe we should try that Clark guy again). The 49ers line isn’t a top 5 unit, but they aren’t bad either. Plus they have Joe Staley, how bad can they be?
- Timing Failure:
I think this one can be attributed to crowd noise. This is a zone run and zone’s all feature the offensive line stepping in unison in what’s known as a “zone step.” Everyone here takes that step to the left, but no one does it at the same time, which throws timing off and gives the defense an advantage.
To compound this issue the right guard and tackle fail to work one of them to the second level. If one of them gets off of their block, they move to the ILB who is in position. The TE (Kittle) tries to block Cliff Avril one-on-one for some insane reason, and while he doesn’t manhandle him, he does prevent him from making the tackle. Also Pierre Garçon doesn’t get a block on his man here, who eventually made the tackle.
This isn’t a stellar showing, but it’s still better than Jeremy Vujnovich and Deyshawn Bond.
- Another Zone Step:
This play required the right tackle to make an insanely difficult reach block on the defensive linemen that was shaded on the outside shoulder of the guard. It’s not a block a lot of guys can make and Trent Brown is no different. Luckily for them that high-dollar fullback puts a hat on him and springs Matt Breida for the big gainer.
Had the RT been able to make that block the fullback may have been able to get a hat on Earl Thomas which probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the play. Richard Sherman was coming over the top to shut off that running lane and the CB that made the tackle (Jeremy Lane?) was still in position.
Now that I’ve said that just know, when I’m breaking down possible running lanes in the secondary, that’s a good play for your offensive line.
- Why Use 5 Guys When 4 Can Get It Done:
The Seahawks do give them a really light box here. Regardless, the line blocks this pretty well. Watch the interaction on the right side of the line. The difference between this play and the last is the RG gets a hand on the shoulder of the DE. It’s nearly identical to the last assignment for the RT but that small chip from the RG made all the difference.
Laken Tomlinson, the backup LG, does a good job walling off the DT. Center Daniel Kilgore pulls to make a hit on the ILB. RG Brandon Fusco trips and falls on this play blocking no one. But once again Matt Breida makes a guy miss, and then we’re talking about DB’s tackling a RB, and once again, that’s good news for the offense.
- Staley Can’t Block Everyone:
I really like Joe Staley. The guy is good. Not great, but good. This play shows a sack come from his side. Before the snap there’s an OLB lined up across from him and then a DB drops down to blitz.
Based on his reaction after the sack (you can see it on the other angle of this play), Staley talks to his center and I believe the center failed to make the protection adjustment that led to this sack.
Ultimately these guys are good enough to open holes for their backs but don’t work well enough together to keep Hoyer clean for the entire game. This should be a good test for our defensive line as it appears to be strength vs strength.
The 49ers offense isn’t good. It’s not. They don’t have a ton of talent outside of their backs, and they don’t have a quarterback that can elevate the guys around him. What they have is a promising young coach that understands how to manipulate NFL defenses. His dad is a likely Hall of Fame head coach and it’s way too early to mention the younger Shanahan in the same class as his dad, but having that resource to pull from is invaluable. If he finds a franchise QB, we could be talking about him that way sometime in the next couple decades.
Hoyer is going to turn the ball over a lot this year. His game is limited and given the ways it’s limited, he’s going to create opportunities for defenses to capitalize. If our young secondary can stay disciplined, this could be a big day for them. At the same time, Shanahan will plan some receivers open, and at times, it will feel like Hoyer is beating our defense. Try to remember, Brian Hoyer just has the arm, Kyle Shanahan is the guy running this show.