After the team caught fire at the end of last season, many were looking at a big jump from Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers this season. But after a tough week one that saw many young players struggle, the 49ers seem to have some kinks that need to be worked out before they can go the distance.
As it stands right now, the 49ers have a lot of young talent on their team but need them to make the next leap, and it showed at times on Sunday. Of course, not all of their young talent disappointed versus the Vikings. In fact, some really impressed and showed a bright future for the organization.
Youth Hurts 49ers in Week One Loss
Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback
After finishing last season with a bang, Garoppolo looked to come back to Earth on Sunday. He did play a tough Minnesota defense but showed many signs of struggling greatly in the process. Only completing 45.5% of his passes, Garoppolo could not get it going all day. He was able to throw a touchdown to rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis. In fact, it was a very impressive one. After escaping pressure from the pocket, Garoppolo attempted to roll out but tripped. When falling to the ground, he launched a dime to the back of the end zone to Pettis, touchdown 49ers.
The ball hawk cornerbacks of the Vikings came in clutch for their team, intercepting Garoppolo three times. During the game, he did lose one of his top targets, Marquise Goodwin, to a quad injury. However, Garoppolo did show great rapport early on with Pettis and tight end George Kittle. That’s good news for the future of this organization with both being first and second-year players.
Matt Breida, Running Back
After Jerick McKinnon suffered a torn ACL, all eyes turned on second-year running back Matt Breida to be the guy in San Francisco. The former undrafted free agent showed signs of a good back last season and gave hope to many fans. It is safe to say his 2018 season debut didn’t end how he would have preferred. Sure he did split carries with Alfred Morris, but neither looked good. Breida carried the ball 11 times, rushing for 46 yards.
It is still unclear what the workload will look like for Breida going forward but what is evident is that the ground game needs to improve. Breida will also need to improve greatly in order to see an increased role going forward.
George Kittle, Tight End
After the acquisition of Garoppolo last season, him and Kittle looked to have created a rapport early on. That rapport continued Sunday as Kittle was targeted nine times. Of those nine he caught five passes for 90 yards. He showed he can be a reliable safety blanket over the middle of the field, except for one horrific drop.
This offseason one of the biggest questions asked was who will be the top guy for the team going forward. While Garoppolo has a good amount of people who he can target, Kittle does look to be cementing himself in the conversation. After game one, Kittle leads the team in targets, yards, and receptions. Not bad for the second year tight end. Look for this connection to be a sight to see all season long.
Fred Warner, Linebacker
Entering the season, many wondered how long it would take Warner to enter the starting lineup. With the suspension of Reuben Foster, it opened up a spot for Warner early on. Still, the question became how many snaps would he get after Foster returns? Next, the team traded starting outside linebacker Eli Harold to the Lions. That marked a clear opportunity for Warner to step into a starting role. But how long would that take? Would he be able to be successful with Fosters absence? Well it didn’t take long to answer any of these questions.
After recording 12 tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit, and one pass deflection on Sunday, it is clear that Warner came ready to play. He was the only player on either side of the ball to record double-digit tackles. With Fosters suspension, Warner was able to fill in at the middle linebacker spot and he showed excellent versatility. He was dominant in both the run game and dropping into coverage. With Warner’s polished play, he should lock up a role as an outside linebacker when Foster returns.