49ers wide receiver Marquis Goodwin has been limited over the first three weeks of the 2018 season and the impact on the offense has been obvious. Due to a quad injury suffered Week 1 against the Vikings, Goodwin has played only 59 snaps this season, accounting for only 29.8% of the offense plays this season. Compared to Pierre Garçon and rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis who have played 154 and 129 offensive snaps respectively, Goodwin just hasn’t been on the field as much as the team hoped.
Goodwin initially signed with the 49ers as a deep threat receiver, but Kyle Shanahan believed there was more to his game and that he had been used incorrectly during his time in Buffalo. Through the first 10 games of 2017 it seemed that Shanahan might have been wrong, and Goodwin was a “one trick pony” supremely skilled at running the deep route using his Olympic level speed, but incapable of being a well-rounded receiver. But all of that seemed to change following the trade to acquire quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Goodwin thrived with Garoppolo under center, where he saw his average targets increase from 5.6 per game to 8.6 over the last five games of the season. Goodwin finished with career highs in targets (105), catches (56), and yards (962), while finishing third in the league in yards per reception at 17.2.
Shanahan has stated multiple times that he likes his receivers to do a little bit of everything well, that way they’re more interchangeable in the offensive system and they team doesn’t tip its hand on different formations or personnel. But Goodwin possesses a skill that no other receiver has: blazing speed. While Pettis and fellow rookie Richie James may someday turn into legitimate deep threats due to their route running, Goodwin scares defenses in a totally different way. When Goodwin hits his top gear all a defensive back can do is turn with him and hope that the throw isn’t there. He’s able to pull cornerbacks and safeties away from middle of the field, opening up the mid-range throws for Garoppolo and the other wide receivers.
It was apparent when Goodwin was out that the offense began to bog down. Without his threat over the top, defenses could bring their safeties up and congest the field in the 10- to 15-yard range that Garoppolo usually finds success in. Over Garoppolo’s last five games in 2017 he averaged 8.76 yards per attempt with Goodwin on the field and healthy, with a smaller sample size during 2018, Garoppolo saw his average yards per attempt drop to 8.06 while Goodwin was missing time.
It’s hard to speculate how the offense will run for the remainder of the season with Beathard under center following Garoppolo’s season ending ACL injury. But it’s clear that no matter who is playing quarterback for the 49ers, a healthy Marquise Goodwin is vital for the offense to be successful.
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