Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
The 2019 season was full of career firsts and career highs for Garoppolo, who started sixteen games for the first time in his NFL career, won his first two playoff games and started his first Super Bowl.
Yet, most of the post-big game talk has been about how the 49ers can upgrade at quarterback?
The Garoppolo-is-a-finished-product narrative is nonsense. The 2020 season will be Garoppolo’s seventh in the NFL (his age-29 season) and his second as a full-time starter, and his career arc compares to that of another 49ers quarterback, Steve Young, who entering his seventh season (Young’s age-30 season), had not yet started a full 16-game schedule. Young continued to improve into his early thirties and the same is possible for Garoppolo as he gains experience and becomes more comfortable in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Garoppolo spent last offseason learning to run again while rehabbing from a torn ACL instead of being able to put that time into bettering himself as a quarterback and the conventional wisdom is that players improve in the second season following surgery. Garoppolo’s first season post-ACL compares favorably with that of Tom Brady’s:
Brady: (2009): 65.7 completion percentage, 4398 yards, 28 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Garoppolo: (2019) 69.1 completion percentage, 3978 yards, 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Garoppolo is primed for a breakout season as he becomes more efficient in the offense and more confident in his surgically repaired knee. If John Lynch can keep the offensive talent around Garoppolo, a 4,500-yard 35-plus touchdown season could be on the horizon.
Like Garoppolo, Samuel appears on the breakout list for a second consecutive year and like Garoppolo, Samuel is poised to improve on career highs posted in 2019. Samuel got off to a slow start in his rookie season, recording 227 yards and one touchdown on 22 receptions in the season’s first half, but found his stride in the second half of the year with 575 yards and two scores on 35 receptions, add in his 159 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns and it all adds up to a very productive rookie season, outpacing last year’s projection.
Wide receiver is a tough transition from college to the NFL in general and specifically in Kyle Shanahan’s offense and for Samuel to progress as he did throughout the year bodes well for his future and the progression he can make in year two. Samuel’s general attitude towards competition (which earned him the nickname “Deebo” as a child) and his growing chemistry with Garoppolo should have Samuel poised for a next-level breakout season of 1,500 yards in total offense in 2020.
John Lynch is going to be faced with some tough personnel decisions this offseason because the 49ers have more good players than they have cap space to pay them. One of those decisions will be what to do with Jimmie Ward. Ward started thirteen games at free safety and played really well in the process and is now a free agent; he has expressed a desire to stay with the 49ers, but there are hurdles on the path to a new deal. Ward has only been healthy for one of his six seasons in the NFL, so making a long-term investment in him is tricky. If Ward leaves for greener pastures, Moore would be the in-house candidate to fill that spot.
Moore was drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft and has the frame and raw physical tools to be a star. At 6-2, 200 pounds, Moore was timed at 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash (not once, but twice) and posted a 38.5-inch vertical jump. In the Niners’ defense, the free safety is often called on to cover a large area of the field as the last line of defense, and Moore’s gifts make him ideal for the task. Moore started the first three games of 2019 in place of an injured Jimmie Ward and his performance was mixed, but he was seeing his first action at safety after the team tried him at cornerback his rookie season.
Moore has the ball skills and physical tools to be a play-making upgrade over Ward and will have a breakout season should the 49ers move on in 2020.
The 2018 undrafted free agent from the University of Tennessee started nine regular-season games in 2019 and started in the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl, but the best is yet to come for Moseley. The starting cornerback position opposite Richard Sherman is going to be a full-blown competition between Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon, and building upon the momentum gained in 2019 I fully expect Moseley to lock down that spot and be the full-time starter in 2020.
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