Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance against the Denver Broncos defense in Week 2 of the preseason was extremely disappointing. But the 49ers quarterback’s performance in the game isn’t entirely bad news.
The quarterback looked flustered early on with the Denver Broncos pass rush on Monday night, and he could never get in a rhythm throwing the ball. Garoppolo was a mere 1-of-6 for zero yards, an interception and a paltry 0.0 passer rating in his first on-field action since tearing his ACL early in 2018.
But let’s try to look at the bright side.
The Broncos have an elite-level defense coached by a defensive genius in head coach Vic Fangio. A successful outing for any quarterback coming back after a year away from game reps would be a surprise against Denver’s starters.
Garoppolo was only out there for three series. Granted, it was a very dismal three series. Surely the Niners offense would have gotten something going had this been a regular-season game with Garoppolo taking every snap. The sample size was just too small to make an end-of-the-world judgment on the starting quarterback.
The pass rush schemed up by Fangio confused the 49ers offensive line. Second-year edge rusher Bradley Chubb was an absolute problem. Chubb is playing the Khalil Mack role Fangio implemented last season with the No. 1-rated defense of the Chicago Bears — the role that turned Mack from a Pro Bowl-type player to the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner.
The 49ers offensive line was not ready for Chubb starting on the edge, stepping inside and rushing up the middle. Thankfully, the Niners don’t have to face off against the Broncos elite pass rush in the regular season.
Now, this may sound like a lot of excuses for Garoppolo’s poor play. His play was certainly concerning. However, he deserves some benefit of the doubt in his first game back. If he can play well against the Kansas City Chiefs next week, this game can be written off.
Let’s just hope he gets to play more than three drives.
Garoppolo’s play probably solidifies roster spots for both backups, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens. There has been speculation one of the two could potentially be traded, though general manager John Lynch has shut down such rumors. We may now know why.
Just like the added running back depth is looking to be a very smart move, the quarterback depth looks more important than before. ACL injuries can be difficult to come back from. Some medical doctors suggest ACL surgeries should really take two years to come back from, rather than the more common assumption of one year.
A lot of times, a player can be rushed back before he is truly ready to be out there in game situations. Garoppolo has not had any setbacks like running back Jerick McKinnon has, which is a good sign. However, it could take a few games for Garoppolo to feel completely confident in his surgically repaired knee.
The pressure and hits he took against Denver could go a long way in mentally preparing him for the regular season.
It might actually be good for the 49ers in the long term that Garoppolo did not play well against the Broncos. It revealed keeping both Beathard and Mullens on the 53-man roster is probably the best move the Niners can make.
It should also at least give Jimmy Garoppolo the confidence that he can take a hit from some of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.