How Can Shanahan Improve Beathard's Performance?

October 25, 2017

Well, some fans got their wish to see veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer on the bench and rookie

quarterback C.J. Beathard behind center. Against Washington, Beathard provided a late spark to

keep the San Francisco 49ers within reach of a win.

 

However, against the hated Cowboys, Beathard looked overwhelmed. There were a few

highlights, including 235 yards passing and distributing the ball to eight of his receivers.

 

Beathard, like any rookie quarterback, is a work-in-progress. Here are four ways head coach and

offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan can work with Beathard to improve over the second half of

the season.

 

Adjust His Throwing Mechanics

 

More than anything, Beathard needs to make slight adjustments to his throwing mechanics.

While more evident against Washington, Beathard looks like he’s throwing off his back foot too

often. A back foot throw causes Beathard to sail the ball over the head of his target, especially

when he’s throwing toward the sidelines.

 

The inconsistent fundamentals are impacting his accuracy, as Beathard has completed 55.3

percent of his passes.

 

Say what you want about former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but his throwing motion never

changed. He did make offseason adjustments, but it was one of Kaepernick's strengths. He was

brutally consistent in how he delivered the football.

 

It could just be a mental issue with Beathard; he’s getting nervous in the pocket and reverting to

bad habits or poor technique to read the field and deliver the football. That’s a typical regression

for many professional football players, so it’s a matter of breaking through a mental hurdle and

return to sound football skill.

 

It’s not easy to take a rookie quarterback and change his mechanics midway through a season.

But, until we can get to next year, Shanahan needs to find a Band-Aid to help Beathard get

through the next eight games.

 

What Are His Favorite Plays?

 

If you ever played organized football, you can probably think back to a handful of plays you

enjoyed running, a few you hated and five or six that never worked. I imagine it’s the same in

the NFL. In fact, there’s a great clip of Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady talking with Drew

Bledsoe about what he liked to run. It’s at the 53-second mark if you’re interested.

 

Beathard, like anyone else in the league, probably has plays he’s mastered. It could be a route

combination, an audible against a specific defense, or even a particular receiver on a precise

pattern.

 

What Beathard needs is an early rhythm and something that builds his confidence immediately.

It’s easy for Shanahan to install Beathard’s favorite, confidence-building plays into this week’s

call sheet and branch out from there.

 

Run the Ball

 

Fun fact from Sunday’s debacle against Dallas: Shanahan called 22 runs and 38 pass attempts.

 

Dallas, on the other hand, called running back Ezekiel Elliott's number 26 times.

 

Looking back at the last four seasons of a Shanahan offense, we expect an average of 442 rush

attempts per season. Right now, the 49ers have 158 rushing attempts - ranking them 23rd overall

- and run the ball just over 5.6 times per quarter.

 

The offense has attempted 279 passes, placing them second overall in pass attempts. Over seven

weeks of football, the 49ers throw the ball 9.96 times per quarter.

 

Even a casual football fan knows a strong run game sets up the play-action passing attack.

Currently, the 49ers couldn’t fool a youth flag football team with a play-action play.

 

It’s clear Shanahan isn’t using his backfield to help out his struggling quarterbacks. Maybe he’s

forcing Beathard to take his lumps early, or enjoyed watching Brian Hoyer battle back from a

deficit.

 

Beathard needs the play-action to cut the number of defenders in his eye line and set up a high-

low or levels progression. Play-action will allow his receiver, say Marquise Goodwin, to use a

double move and stretch the field vertically.

 

Shanahan needs to call a more balanced game, putting more of the workload on his running

backs, less pressure on Beathard, and improve the play-action pass game.

 

Cut the Field; Cut the Reads

 

I’ve said this in previous editorials, but the best thing Shanahan does with quarterbacks is calling

bootlegs and move-the-pocket plays. He did that with rookie Kirk Cousins, he’s done it with a

veteran like Matt Ryan, and he should do it with Beathard.

 

Shanahan needs to turn to this section of his playbook and call for Beathard to move left or right

– toward the strength of the offensive line’s protection – immediately after the snap.

 

Move-the- pocket plays can employ play-action, use a three-to- five step short waggles to the left

or right, or are a naked sprint, much like the famous ‘Sprint Right Option’ play.

 

Moreover, makes sense for Beathard to run to the edge of the line of scrimmage or beyond to

make a throw because the interior of the 49ers’ line cannot be trusted. Putting Beathard on the

move shrinks the amount of field he has to cover and the number of reads in his field of vision.

 

How do you think Shanahan can improve Beathard's performance this week? Let us know on twitter and stay tuned to 49ersHUB for more great content!

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