No. 3: Kyle Shanahan, 49ers need to get back to basics
It sounds cliché. But there’s some logical rationale to Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco offense simplifying things in the upcoming weeks.
Particularly if rookie quarterback Trey Lance is going to have an expanded role under center.
Shanahan’s offense is notoriously complex, yes. Even experienced quarterbacks can take a year or two to fully grasp it. But it’s also intended to be a run-heavy offense, and the 49ers seemed to abandon that approach, outside of Lance’s rushes, to a great extent in Week 5.
Case in point, Lance attempted 29 passes against the Cardinals. He also rushed 16 times, many of those coming off broken-down plays where he couldn’t find his intended receiving target.
Yet Arizona entered the game with the 31st-ranked run defense, allowing 5.4 yards per carry, and the 49ers found themselves trailing by only one score for the overwhelming majority of the game.
Despite this, Shanahan called for only 12 rush plays that didn’t involve Lance.
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, who returned from a shoulder injury, averaged 4.8 yards per carry. For whatever the reasons, though, straight rushes from Mitchell and fellow running back Trey Sermon, who had 89 rush yards in Week 4, weren’t as big a part of the offensive game plan as they should have been.
Both Lance and fellow quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo have excelled with play-action passing, yet play action only works if the run game is established.
Why Shanahan has moved away from this approach is anyone’s guess, but getting back to it would sure help matters a lot.