Jimmy G's shaky return is the story, but his protection might be the real problem

Garoppolo looked bad yes, but the 49ers offensive line didn't look any better

Tommy Call
August 19, 2019 - 8:44 pm

The 49ers may have been victorious their second straight preseason game, but it didn't really feel like a win. Jimmy Garoppolo's shaky return to the football field will be all remember from Monday night in Denver. 

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Garoppolo hadn’t donned a 49ers uniform since Sept. 23, 2018. That’s 330 days if you’re counting at home.

In his 2019 preseason debut he did not look good. Like, 1-6 for 0 yards and one interception bad. Like, his first four passes were either tipped, intercepted or broken up by Broncos bad. 

Ugly — yes, but let’s take a deep breath here because it’s still only the preseason. Garoppolo only played three series after having an almost year layoff because of injury. 

Rust was expected for Garopppolo. If Garoppolo’s uneasy play bleeds into week three of the preseason there might be some cause for concern. But still, it’s just the preseason. The bottom line is this game was a mere chance to shake the rust off for Garoppolo. 

Before questioning their quarterback, the 49ers need to start worrying about their protection for Garoppolo. 

The 49ers offensive line looked overmatched and overwhelmed vs the Broncos defense. The Broncos defensive line provided a good measuring stick opportunity for the 49ers offensive line and they failed. 

Head coach Kyle Shanahan, said the 49ers "couldn't protect long enough." Shanahan blamed Garoppolo's shaky start on lack of rhythm when he was on the field.

"The day was over kinda before it started," Shanahan said. 

Broncos sophomore edge rusher, Bradley Chubb dominated when he was on the field against Joe Staley and Justin Skule. Garoppolo was under pressure almost every time he dropped back whether it was Chubb, Shelby Harris or Von Miller. 

The 49ers were playing without projected starters Mike Person and Weston Richburg on the interior, but even the 49ers healthy side of the line had problems. On Garoppolo’s interception he was under duress by Chubb who got a free rush right to the passer. A few things went wrong here: 

Staley looked confused by the protection while Laken Tomlinson bit on the inside stunt leaving a free lane to Garoppolo. Center, Ben Garland, could’ve had a hand in this by signalling out the wrong protection presnap. Regardless of who the blame falls on, it was ugly. As the regular season begins stunts and blitz packages will double in intensity. 

The 49ers offensive line already had question marks heading into training camp and a rocky performance with Garoppolo under center fogs the situation even more. Mix that in with a heavy dose of the injury bug and the 49ers have problems up front. The 49ers will now be counting on players like Skule, Garland, Najee Toran and Sam Young for depth. 

If you want to instill confidence in Garoppolo coming off injury you need to protect him now. There’s really no solution here for the 49ers at this point in the season. They could try to dumpster dive after camp cuts happen, but that’s a gamble too. The 49ers offensive line simply needs to play better and play better quickly. 

The offensive line group will be tested this Saturday when they travel to the place Garoppolo’s knee injury happened last season, Arrowhead Stadium. The starters should get a heavy workload in their final dress rehearsal vs the Chiefs defensive line.

Kansas City’s defensive line has some juice with players like Frank Clark, Chris Jones and rookie Khalen Saunders. Similar to Denver's defensive front it will be a good final test for the 49ers offensive line. 

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