Do the 49ers have enough playmakers to contend in NFC West?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Philadelphia. (Brad Penner/AP Images for Panini)

On Sunday the 49ers’ offense was unable to reach a first down throughout the first quarter. This was something that had never happened to San Francisco with Kyle Shanahan calling the offensive plays. The sluggish start against Philadelphia coupled with only scoring 17 points has led some to wonder if the 49ers’ offense has enough playmakers.

To answer this question, let’s compare the skill position players from the 2019 49ers offense, which scored the second-most points in the NFL and averaged over 30 points per game during the second half of the season on the way to the Super Bowl to those on the current roster.

2019: Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Kyle Juszczyk, Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida.

2021: Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu, Kyle Juszczyk, Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, JaMycal Hasty

Based on the rosters, it looks safe to say San Francisco’s offense has the firepower to compete in the NFC. A quick look shows that the first three are the same, and there should be little argument that George Kittle and Deebo Samuel are the top two weapons on the 49ers’ offense. Brandon Aiyuk is a more explosive option than Sanders, a mid-season addition, during his time in San Francisco. Trent Sherfield gives this 49ers offense the sure-hands role that Kendrick Bourne filled in 2019 and Mohamed Sanu is definitely an upgrade over Dante Pettis.

While the wide receivers are an upgrade, the 2021 49ers are not quite as explosive at running back with the loss of Raheem Mostert. On the flip side, Mitchell, Sermon, and Hasty provide a deeper backfield when healthy.

Unfortunately, all three running backs are currently dealing with injuries. Mitchell and Sermon may be able to play against Green Bay, but Hasty will be out for some time and the team is scrambling to find a replacement. This week the 49ers added Jacques Patrick from the Bengals practice squad and could possibly need to pull Kerryon Johnson off the practice squad.

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas had the 49ers expected point total for Sunday at 23.5 points, so coming in with 17 isn’t that far off. It should also be noted that San Francisco’s offense did something that had not been done by a 49ers offense in 19 years during Sunday’s victory, scoring two touchdowns on drives that started inside their own 10-yard line. Those two drives took a lot of time off the clock while requiring a level of consistency and precision that doesn’t happen without playmakers.


DT Javon Kinlaw (knee), CB Emmanuel Moseley (knee), RB Trey Sermon (concussion) were limited in Thursday’s practice.

DE Arik Armstead (adductor), DT Kevin Givens (ankle), RB JaMycal Hasty (ankle), RB Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) did not participate in practice. Givens and Hasty have been ruled out for Sunday. 

This article has 17 Comments

  1. I have been saying this for a while now. But I feel like Jimmy is going to start to hit his stride and really start to develop and become a better QB. The injuries have ruined any momentum he has had. Healthy, in year 4 of the system, and surrounded by the best weapons it’s not hard to see him becoming a highly efficient Drew Brees (late career) type player.

    Jack also brings up a good point that the running game is likely to be weaker than 2019 which is just another reason Garoppolo makes strides as a passer.

    1. It sounds unbelievable but Jimmy G reached the milestone of 1000 pass attempts in the NFL only a week earlier in the Detroit game. Kyle has said multiple times that Jimmy has not reached his ceiling. Hopefully next season he will go to a team with a QB-friendly HC who employs a QB-friendly offense.

      1. Garoppolo only has 34 regular season starts in the NFL. He has his flaws, but it’s hard to no like the way he battles when he is in there. Having Lance here is pushing him to be better.

  2. Jack, can you tell us what you saw on the tapes about Kittle.
    He hasn’t been a big impact in terms of receiving and scoring but have you analyzed his plays, blocking, decoy etc?

    1. Kittle was being double teamed quite a bit but he had a big impact as a blocker, and was kept in to help with pass protection at times as well.

    2. In their podcast earlier this week, HaM had an interesting observation. After the game, Kittle was spotted wandering towards the locker room with his helmet and shoulder pads with a swagger of a player who just scored multiple TDs and/or 100+ yards receiving. Kittle looked very pleased at the post-game presser, too. He had done what he enjoys doing most — blocking the heck out of the defenders.

  3. Do the 49ers have enough playmakers to contend in NFC West?” Hell Yes.

    1. Much of the NFL these days is only judged through the lens of Fantasy Football relevance. I am sometimes guilty of this. The bad news for some this that Niners will not be a fantasy relevant team this year with the possible exception of Deebo. I fully expect Aiyuk to emerge and the target share between both guys will wind up about equal. Kittle will have some big games but also turn in some statistical duds. Of course the true fans realize that does not mean he is not an integral part of our offense. He is the best blocking TE in the league and his mere presence on pass plays draws significant attention from DBs and LBs. See #2. The key is that niners have numerous weapons and ways of scoring. Their ball control offense and ability to put together 90 yard drives is a back breaker for opposing Ds. Did anyone notice how tired the Eagles D looked in the second half.

    2. On the Jimmy to Jennings TD at the end of the first half versus Eagles, Kittle drew triple coverage. Jennings was left wide open. BTW, while searching for this video I discovered via quote from Jennings that he was Jimmy’s 4th option on that play.

    3. Jimmy is a 3-0 on Sunday nights .

    4. Recently acquired Chris Thompson was with Shanahan in Washington and a FSU grad. Jacques Patrick former XFLer is also a FSU grad.

    5. Prediction: Jeff Wilson Jr will lead all Niner backs in rush yards and total yards from scrimmage at years end.

    6. Go Niners

  4. Jack, your title asks whether they can contend in the west, while your article has them contending against the 2019 Niners team. The question also is, how improved are the rest of west since 2019? With the addition of players like Hopkins, AJ Green, Stafford, the development of Metcalf, Murray, the 2021 version of Niners playmakers better be quite an upgrade over 2019 to keep pace.

    1. Good point on the title. The 49ers offense has better weapons this season, Aiyuk, Sherfield, and Sanu are all upgrades from ‘19.

  5. NFC West in 2019 was a bit easier than the 2021 NFC West looks, with Rams suffering a SB hangover and the Cards in their first year under Kingsbury/ Murray.

    I think the 49ers roster is good enough to contend in the NFC, but I also think the same can be said of all the NFC West teams at this juncture. Whoever win the division will need some luck to go their way, and will need to be playing at or near their best most weeks.

    1. Arizona flatters to deceive — as was seen last season. They are extremely dependent on Murray’s play-making, especially with his legs which puts his health in jeopardy. Rams are paper thin at depth and it may take a toll later in the season. Seattle D is suspect, and Russ is getting a bit too old to regularly win on broken plays and sandlot football.

    2. No question about it, the NFC West is tough top to bottom. I am still suspect at how good Arizona is. Hopefully we have figured out how to contain Murray somewhat. I believe we are also better than Seattle and that the Rams will be our toughest competition. In the game of football anything can happen and I will enjoy watching the season unfold.

  6. We may a better answer to this question after the next 3 games. The Packers, Seattle and Arizona will give us a more clearer picture of who we are.

    But at the moment, we are a playoff team with the present roster. The offense is starting to catch it’s stride and the defense will only improve as Bosa knocks the rust off and Kinlaw plays more snaps. We will also get Greenlaw back at some point this season as well.

    As an old friend on here used to say, “we are trending up.”

    1. Yep, the next 3 games will show who we are at the moment. The good news is, there will be plenty of time to adjust and make a run for the playoff.
      Cannot wait to see the Niners punk and bully those Packers come Sunday night. But Bosa and company need to show up coz we know Aaron is going to attack our corners and he is not gonna miss a lot if he has time in the pocket.
      I have a feeling too that Lance might play more in this game to compensate for the running game that will be missing a lot of it’s starters.

  7. GB has an awful defense. Niners are poised to put up a 50 burger on them Sunday night. My only concern is poor officiating could sway the outcome. We may need an external auditing committee to keep an eye on things. I hear the cyber ninjas are available. LOL

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