A More-Rounded 49ers Offense to Benefit C.J. Beathard
It’s fairly subjective, but one could make the argument Kyle Shanahan’s overall offense is in a better position now than it was at a year ago this time.
Those returnees from last year, many of which were 2017 first-year rookies, will have a full year’s digest of Shanahan’s complex system. They’ll have chemistry with each other too, which certainly can’t hurt C.J. Beathard’s efforts.
And while one could look to Beathard in the 2018 preseason and be concerned, you’d have to also factor in Shanahan completely dialing back the complex scheming and game planning few coaches reveal in exhibition games. Beathard’s preseason struggles are a concern, yes, but they aren’t exactly an indicator of what’s to come either.
Instead, let’s break down one specific element of San Francisco’s offense that can help Beathard immensely, an improved rushing attack.
This means running back Matt Breida, who leads the NFL in both rushing yards (274 yards, tied with the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott) and average yards per carry (8.6).
With Jimmy Garoppolo out, opposing defenses will cheat more against Breida in an attempt to force Beathard to make plays.
There’s not a major difference from Beathard last season when he threw off play action compared to without — a 76.9 passer rating on play-action passes, compared to 67.1 without it, per Pro Football Focus. But you have to dive a bit deeper to understand how Beathard utilizing play action in 2018 can be a crutch.
A year ago, the Niners ranked 17th in rushing, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. This year, that number is 5.6 — second best in the league.
For play action to work effectively, opponents need to respect the ground attack, which in turn, has to be potent. So far for San Francisco, it has been. That’s good for Beathard, who should expect a modest spike in this category in Week 4.
So how does it all come together against the Chargers?