Last season, newly-acquired wide receiver Pierre Garçon was targeted 67 times for 40 receptions. Up until he sustained a season-ending neck injury in a 33-10 loss to Philadelphia, Garçon was the team’s leading wide receiver with 40 receptions totaling 500 yards. Following the loss to the Eagles, Garçon said after the game,

“You learn a lot by losing. When you’re winning you think you’re on top of the world, but you learn a lot more from losing.”

A lot has changed for the team since that week 8 loss to Eagles. The San Francisco 49ers went on to win six of their next eight games, ending the season with a newly-acquired quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, who would now be the one slinging the ball to Garçon. Garoppolo lead the 49ers to end the season 5-0 as a starter. Without Garçon, Garoppolo finished his short season with the 49ers with 120/178 completions, for 1,560 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Thus giving Jimmy a quarterback rating of 96.2 percent.

When the 49ers set off to rebuild the team with coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch at the helm, Pierre Garçon was targeted to be Shanahan’s top receiver. He was coming off the second 1,000-yard season of his career. Under Shanahan (as Washington’s offensive coordinator), Garçon had his best season with a 113-catch, 1,346-yard season with 5 touchdowns, averaging 84.1 yards a game!

In today’s film room, I will be taking a look at a key player missing from half of Kyle Shanahan’s freshman season as an NFL head coach; nine-year veteran wide receiver Pierre Garçon, (not because we share the same birthday), but because he is expected to help elevate second-year starter Jimmy Garoppolo’s passing game to the next level.

Last season at NFL meetings, Coach Shanahan spoke more in depth about his wide receiver,

“Everyone knows Pierre’s a good player. Everyone can see that on tape. I’ve always loved Pierre just because of how angry he plays. He gives you his all, he plays extremely aggressive! The best leaders are the guys who lead by example. Pierre’s not going to say much but you know he’s going to go out there and fight every single play no matter what the situation is, whether it’s run or pass. That elevates everyone around him.”

So off the bat, lets take our Coach’s word for it and take a look:

Extremely aggressive play:

Garçon consistently moves the chains. Earns every yard and reminds me of former 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin who did not shy away from contact after the catch.

Garçon is an extremely aggressive possession receiver. Here he lowers his head to take the hit but still drives forward for an additional 4-yards after the hit.

Check.

Leading by example; showing fight in every situation, in run:

The end around play is known to be one of Kyle Shanahan’s favorite plays. Here Garçon displays excellent vision and turns on the jets.

 

or pass:

Displays experience as he is well aware of where he needs to be to get the first down.

Check.

Now I believe a big part of Shanahan recruiting his former wide receiver to come to the 49ers is due to his route-running ability. Garçon is an outstanding runner with long-strides who has the speed to get past defensive backs. He uses his excellent route running and awareness to fool defenders while maintaining smooth transition and stride without losing acceleration. This causes a problem for defenders who have to readjust their hips when Garçon makes his sharp breaks.

Amazing route runner. Here he makes his cut so well the closest defender to him is about 3 to 4 yards away with plenty of cushion to rack up more YAC.

I especially like how Pierre uses his defender’s eyes against him and easily recognizing the proper route adjustment he needs to make to fly right by him with seamless transition.

 

Because of his ability to hit sharp breaks without losing acceleration in transition, it contributes to Garçon’s ability to pretty much stop and turn on a dime.

He turns a simple comeback route into a touchdown. This guy is a baller.

 

Here, we see Garçon’s display excellent focus and vision to adjust to the ball and make tough catches with his long limbs.

 

In addition to his excellent route running ability, Garçon is extremely lethal when running dig routes. Here Pierre is able to give a hard fake the other way and cut back inside.

 

Garçon is very good at working the sideline and the toughness he imposes on tacklers by trying to avoiding being pushed out of bounds, helps moves the chains. He shows excellent vision here and easily hits the second level for a huge gain off the bubble screen.

 

On this play Garçon displays great release as he pushes aggressively up field to sell a deep route, but on a dime, is able to cut back for the ball on a comeback route; showing excellent body control.

Last but not least, I found a nice gem digging through all these glorious highlights from Garçon’s illustrious 11-year career. Per Justin Twell of Inside the Pylon we find Garçon lined up against now teammate Richard Sherman. Take it away Mr. Twell.

“Garçon does an excellent job of selling the deeper route on release and the quickness on the comeback to the inside is so good here that he gives himself a 4-5 yard cushion on Sherman. This not only allows him to make the catch easily, but also cut inside and upfield for a gain of 11 yards and a 1st down. An interesting to note on this play that at the very end there is six Seahawks players all swarming towards Garçon. They’re a little too late to prevent the first down, which highlights the fact Garçon can be extremely quick on his routes from start to finish. He pulls it off here perfectly and while not a huge gain, it’s an effective one.”

Pierre Garçon is 32 years old and now entering year two of a five-year deal with the 49ers. However, don’t let the age fool you! The veteran wide receiver is entering his 11th season in the NFL and will definitely provide the missing spark that the 49ers offense lost halfway into the 2017 season before acquiring now franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Will Garçon’s veteran presence on the field help elevate Garoppolo’s game to the next level?

Follow me at @NinerAlex on Twitter and lock in to Nothing But Niners on all our platforms to find out!