When the Week 2 49ers-Broncos exhibition game came to a conclusion Monday, there were more questions than answers – questions that’ll carry into a game against the Chiefs five days later in Kansas City.
Here are the top-five storylines to pay attention to while watching San Francisco’s third preseason outing in 2019. 1. Can Jimmy Garoppolo bounce back? The No. 1 preseason story in all of football has been the rise (and fall) of Garoppolo. After a tumultuous outing against the Broncos where Jimmy G went 1-6 with a passer rating of 0.00, he’ll look to bounce back against K.C., as he returns to the crime scene of where his torn ACL happened. The phrase “mental hurdles” has gotten thrown out a lot when it comes to Jimmy Garoppolo and his play.
It was easy to see Jimmy G wasn’t the improvising quarterback we’re used to seeing. He didn’t move in the pocket, essentially turning into Peyton Manning without the quick mental processing. When he did get hit, you could see him trying move his repaired leg out of harm’s way. The game was moving extremely fast for him, as it should for any quarterback playing live for the first time in a year. Can Kyle Shanahan get Jimmy G in a rhythm? The goal is to play starters for an entire half. We’ll look to see if they can find a groove, instilling confidence in not only Garoppolo, but the entire organization. 2. Defense The 49ers’ defense as a whole didn’t give up a preseason touchdown until two minutes left in the fourth quarter of their game against the Broncos. While missing several key starters in the first two games, the 49ers took on Robert Saleh’s mantra of playing fast and physical. At times a bit too physical leading to the ejection of Adrian Colbert.
This unit now has the task of slowing down a high-powered Kansas City Chiefs offense led by the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes – a huge test for the defense to see exactly where the 49ers stand heading into the 2019 season. With Nick Bosa and Dee Ford still sidelined with nagging injuries, the 49ers will lean on DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and linebackers Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander, who is making his 49ers debut. 3. Free Safety Battle Starting safety Jimmie Ward is making his first appearance since breaking his collarbone during OTAs. Since then, safety Adrian Colbert has been replaced by second-year defensive back Tarvarius Moore. Moore continues to make strides at his natural position and looks to hold off a returning Jimmie Ward. The 49ers are looking for one of the three to take control of the position. 4. Receivers Can ANYONE step up and be a guy? Will rookies Jalen Hurd and Deebo Samuel get repetitions with the first group? Too many questions surrounding this group but I’ll remain optimistic. 5. Offensive Line The play of Garoppolo overshadowed the poor outing by the offensive line. Poor communication allowing free runners sped up the QB’s time clock. The starting offensive line did a great job when it came to opening up running lanes for newly-acquired running back Tevin Coleman, but when it came to pass blocking, as a group they were less than stellar. Utilizing the screen game early on may neutralize the speed of Frank Clark and slow down the rush a bit. That would help a struggling pass-blocking offensive line in the long run. If the offensive line can’t hold up early, it’ll be a long first half. Overall: I’d like to see the 49ers come out and hit the Chiefs in the mouth. Take the fight to them. That mindset should instill an attitude and confidence in the entire 49ers team. Use rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd early in space to pick up cheap yardage. The infamous third preseason game, also known as the dress rehearsal, kicks off at 5pm PST.
Media courtesy Sam McDowell/Kansas City Star