Yes yes, Nothing But Niners is back with another exclusive. So jump on in the Silverado with me and take this ride down to Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa, Florida. If you’re a return passenger, welcome back, and nice to see you again. In the event this is your first ride, nice to meet you and welcome. First things first though, go ahead and put on your seat belt (safety first) and let’s take this ride!There is an aux cord available in the event you want to listen to whatever your flavor of music may be, but I’m sure our conversation will be more than enough to keep your attention. Feel free to chime in as well. Lastly, be sure to provide your most honest review at the end of the ride in an attempt to improve the overall ride experience moving forward.

Okay Faithful, now let’s talk regular season 49ers football! We get the first real taste test of what Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have cooked up in Santa Clara. Listen here, I’m the type to pull no punches and give it to you straight — no chaser. I’m also the type that will lie for you before I lie to you. That said, even with so many missing pieces now in place, I really have no idea how this is going to play out. Yet, I’m here for it and am ready to watch!

On one hand, the 49ers have all the ingredients to make the best tasting dish the team has prepared in years. The other side of that, it’s yet to be seen if all the ingredients have had enough time to cook, simmer, and blend together properly to produce a great dish. Let’s take closer look at a three of the key ingredients and how said ingredients will dictate the taste, quality, and success of Sunday’s dish. A win!

The Quarterback

It’s time for Jimmy Garoppolo to put it all together and show he’s worth that contract! In his defense, he’s yet to play a full (healthy) season as a starter, so his sample sizes have varied. Though he’s coming off a season ending ACL-tear last year, all that should change starting Sunday. Now keep in mind, just like any other quarterback, he has his flaws, namely his inconsistent mechanics (not stepping into throws, throwing off his back foot) and rushed decisions. It can truly be the difference between looking like a below average quarterback that forces throws resulting in interceptions or batted down passes, versus the deadly accurate, good-decision making, quick release having quarterback Jimmy can be when focused.

A prime example of the two versions of Jimmy, are his preseason game versus the Denver Broncos, and his preseason game versus the Chiefs. The batted down passes could’ve been avoided by simply stepping left to avoid throwing the ball into the raised arms of a defender and is a quick fix. The interceptions, or near interceptions, on the other hand, yeah those indeed need addressing and like last season ago. Just take the extra second to make better decisions Jimmy. You don’t have to force things like you once did when you were the best offensive weapon on the field. You have company and multiple play makers (George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel, any of the running backs) at your disposal now. Just get the ball to them. If your first or even favorite/read isn’t there, move onto to the next. If the protection breaks down, throw it away or take the sack and move onto the next play. To avoid beating a dead horse, I digress. Jimmy just needs to limit the interceptions and both he and the offense will be fine. Let’s go Jimmy, it’s time!

The Offensive Line

This is where Jimmy gets a pass, as he has no control of how well the offensive line blocks. Regardless of how focused, sharp, or confident Jimmy is, if this offensive line doesn’t significantly improve in pass protection, it won’t matter, as he won’t even have enough time to access an escape route, let alone find an open teammate. Speaking of the disparity between run and pass blocking, as previously discussed at Nothing But Niners in The Best 53: Pre Camp edition article. While this group was ranked 10th in 2018 by Pro Football Focus for run-blocking, the same unit struggled in pass-protection and was ranked near the bottom at 23rd. This imbalance between the run and pass-blocking isn’t anything new. The team has historically been much better at run-blocking than pass-blocking. With other teams having this same information and tape of such, I’d expect there will be a lot of 8 man boxes as well as a bevy of blitzes seen from opposing defenses to take away the run and make Jimmy beat them, or at least pose a threat. Bottom line, Jimmy and the offense will go as the five men in front of him does. Let’s go fellas, protect Jimmy and give him what he needs to succeed. TIME. If they provide ample time and space for Jimmy, no reason this offense shouldn’t put up or average 30 points a game.

The Pass-Rush

  1. Clears throat. “ALL GAS, NO BRAKES!” Yes indeed, that’s exactly what we all (including the players on the field) should be thinking when the defense is on the field. It’s 100 to the ball-carrier and quarterback. This retooled and healthy pass-rush/front seven could be one of the best! With the implementation of the wide-9 scheme (creates more space and bigger gaps for the interior guys to have their way with guards) and new pass-rusher Dee Ford with his first step and rookie Nick Bosa with his superior hand usage and motor, should be able to squeeze, disrupt, harass and hurry the quarterback from the edge. All the while guys like DeForrest Buckner, Sheldon Day, Solomon Thomas, and Arik Armstead collapse the middle, get push, and dominate from the inside. With teams having to account for the pass rush capabilities of our the edge rushers, that should allow more opportunities for the rest of the crew to win inside, and often. So long as the edge is squeezing the pocket, both the quarterback and plays will be funneled inside forcing the quarterback to step up or forcing the run up inside to the hungry pack of dawgs in the middle.

Oh, and let’s not forgot about them other dawgs at the second level flying around making plays and shooting gaps, collecting tackles for loss and sacks. Second-year middle linebacker Fred Warner, new 49er linebacker Kwon Alexander and rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw should have ample opportunity to make plays at the second level and in the backfield. Dare I say this is the best, most athletic, and opportunistic group of three linebackers the 49ers defense has had in some time? Okay, I’ll try and calm down, but man just the thought of these seven and others out there looking to cause problems has me excited like I’ll be suiting up with them. Can’t wait!

Okay, we’re almost there so I’ll wrap this up so you can get out and get to the tailgate and your seat! As excited and optimistic as I seem in my thoughts, I’m aware that without execution, discipline, and clean football, most of this may not pan out. All in all, let’s just hope that the 49ers show up and ready to play their good, clean, yet violent brand of football. They need to force turnovers and light up the scoreboard, and leave Tampa with a win. I’ll leave you with this. Thanks for riding with myself and my Nothing But Niners squad. We hope you enjoyed the ride. And oh yeah. Remember — ALL GAS, NO BRAKES! LET’S GO NINERS!