2018 NFL Season Preview- San Francisco 49ers
The season started as bad as it could for the 49ers, but it finished better than anyone could imagine.
San Francisco was one of two teams to go winless in September and October, and the only team to go unbeaten in December.
After trading for New England quarterback Jimmy Garopollo midway through the year, things changed for the 49ers. Garopollo went 5-0 as a starter throwing for 1,542 yards and accounting for eight total touchdowns. San Francisco was far from good as a running team. Running back Carlos Hyde was adequate and Matt Breida was a surprise, but the backs true value was in the passing game as the 49ers had the third most catches by running backs in the league. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was one of the league's best stories. Goodwin transformed himself from a speedy deep threat to an every down option in a year when he and his wife lost their premature son sue to complications with the pregnancy. Pierre Garçon could have been special had he played with Garopollo, but his year ended with a neck injury in early November. Outside of Joe Staley, the offensive line was below average at best. The unit struggled to open up holes in the running game and gave up 43 sacks on the year.
The defensive line was seen as the club's best unit before Garopollo arrived, but only managed 30 sacks on the year. The team still isn't sure if Arik Armstead can consistently be depended on and Elvis Dumervil was average in his 12th season. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was released after Week 5 after the team was unable to trade him.The secondary struggled all year, only intercepting 10 passes on the season. Safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt continue to deal with injuries and the cornerbacks don't scare opposing quarterbacks.
The team produced two Pro Bowlers in fullback Kyle Juszczyk and left tackle Joe Staley. Juszczyk caught 36 passes on the season and showed that fullbacks still have value in today's NFL. Staley made his sixth Pro Bowl appearance and expressed he wants to be part of San Francisco's future.
The rookie class offers some enthusiasm for the future. Defensive end Solomon Thomas got a late start due to school commitments and never really established himself as either a tackle or edge rusher. Linebacker Reuben Foster was a solid playmaker, but was prone to multiple injuries that caused him to miss six games. Quarterback C.J. Bethard did a good job keeping the team competitive before the team traded for Garopollo. Running back Joe Williams was injured in training camp but could be the feature back of the future. Tight end George Kittle developed nicely with both Bethard and Garopollo and will likely be the starter next year. Wide receiver Trent Taylor was a nice surprise catches 43 balls but does need to refine his overall game.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
After finishing the year on a high note at 6-10, a lot of praise was shown to head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. With the trends of the team's past of firing three head coaches in three years, Shanahan and Lynch will be safe for a while with what they have done with this team.
On February 11, Linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, threats, and assault weapon possession charges.
On April 12, he was charged with felony counts of multiple domestic violence, possession of a weapon, and infliction of bodily harm.
On April 25, Foster's girlfriend through her lawyer made a statement saying “Foster did not strike her, injure her or threaten her,” and that the domestic violence claims were made after Foster attempted to end the relationship after she told him her injuries resulted from a fight with another woman.
On May 17, the girlfriend testified under oath that she had fabricated the story "as a money scheme."
On July 3, the league announced that Foster was to be suspended for the first two games of the season due to violating conduct and substance abuse policies.
Notable Additions- RB Jerick McKinnon, RB Alfred Morris, G Jonathan Cooper, C Weston Richburg, CB Richard Sherman
Notable Departures- RB Carlos Hyde, TE Logan Paulsen, G Zane Beadles, Brandon Fusco, C Daniel Kilgore, DT Cedric Thornton, DE Eli Harold, CB Leon Hall, S Eric Reid
Jimmy Garoppolo Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
With the ninth overall pick going into the Draft, the 49ers had to make some key changes if they expect to take the next step of getting back to the playoffs. Especially at wide receiver, middle linebacker, and cornerback.
We've seen what Kyle Shanahan's offense can do with a scrap heap of wide receivers. Imagine what he could doing he had a true number one receiver like he had with Julio Jones.
Reuben Foster's legal troubles look to be behind him, but he be out the first two games of the season and struggled transitioning to the middle after the team cut NaVorro Bowman. He might be better suited on the weak side and draft a more suitable middle linebacker.
San Francisco was able to acquire Richard Sherman in free agency but the secondary still needs an overhaul after Eric Reid wasn't resigned.
On draft day the 49ers drafted Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey with the ninth overall selection. MicGlinchey was viewed as the top run blocking tackle in the draft but is a little slow in his pass sets.
San Francisco also notably drafted Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis in the second round and signed Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden as an undrafted free agent. Pettis has great acceleration for a receiver and has added value as a punt returner, but struggles in press coverage due to slim frame. McFadden looks the part o's a shutdown cornerback, but likely went undrafted due to his large dip in production as a junior.
Austin Pettis Highlights
What To Expect
There's a lot of hype in San Francisco going into 2018. And for good reason.
Jimmy Garopollo will be in the Bay area for a long time after signing a massive five year, $137.5 million contract. Garopollo has the tools to win games with a team he barely practiced with. Imagine what he could do once he's spent an entire offseason with these guys. Right now Jerick McKinnon is likely the starter at running back, but Joe Williams may supplant him if he can return healthy. Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon will make nice targets for Jimmy G and Austin Pettis could be a solid slot receiver and return man. George Kittle will fly under the radar but could be one of the more productive tight ends in the league. Considering he's a better run blocker than pass protector, Mike McGlnchey will play opposite Joe Staley at right tackle and might eventually replace Staley at left tackle when he retires. With the additions of Jonathan Cooper and Weston Richburg, if Joshua Garnett can return healthy, the offensive line should be just fine.
With the former edge rushing outside linebackers being moved to defensive end, they will likely play opposite Solomon Thomas with Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner manning the middle of the line. There is still some questions on whether or not Reuben Foster can man the middle consistently and shake away the injury bug. There seems to be enough depth at outside linebacker between Malcolm Smith and Brock Coyle to be dependable. Will Richard Sherman be the same shutdown cornerback he was in Seattle? Hard to say. He's coming off a torn Achilles and just turned 30. The rest of the secondary is a concern. Hopefully Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt can remain healthy now that Eric Reid is gone.
With Seattle on the downfall and Arizona in the process of a rebuild, San Francisco looks to be the top team to challenge the Rams in the NFC West. Whether they have all the pieces to steal the division crown from them is another story but the enthusiasm surrounding this team is so high, it's not a stretch to see them in the postseason.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 10-6