Breaking Down An Offense On The Rise: An In-Depth Look At Each Position

By: Dillon Frazier (@dillonfrazier98)twitter-logo-4

Final Edit: (@Zachhernan)



Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch decided to go with the slash and burn technique when it comes to this position. After letting go of Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder they opened the position wide up to bring in former Bears teammates Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. However, don’t be surprised if you see some additions come through the draft as well. It seems as though Brian Hoyer will be the starter entering the 2017 season which leaves us in expereienced, capable hands as Hoyer has improved his passer rating every year he has been in the league, as well as being the first player since 1994 to lead the Browns to a 7-2 start, all while throwing for 3,326 yards. In the 2015 season, Hoyer played nine-game stretch in which he threw for 2,606 yards and had nineteen touchdowns. After Jay Cutler went down in week two, Hoyer stepped in to lead the Bears for five games in which he gave the Bears one of their three wins on the season and threw for 1,445 yards. Hoyer has shown that he has the potential to lead a team with the few short bursts of time he has had. Now we will see him enter into the best offensive setup he has had yet, in a system he is familiar in, and see what he can do.

Notable QBs in the Draft: Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Pat Mahomes.

Notable Free Agent QBs: Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Wide Receiver

Free agency has done wonders for the offense already; with the additions of Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin as well as lesser known names like DeAndre Carter and Aldrick Robinson, the 49ers were able to create some much needed compitetion at the wide receiver position. They were also able to lock up Jeremy Kerley, the 49ers leading receiver in the 2016 season, for three more years. With losses of Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton, who combined for nearly the same number as Kerley, not much was lost from the 49ers pass game. Last time Garçon was paired with Kyle Shanahan he had a career high of 184 targets, so we should expect big things from this duo reuniting. We also saw Taylor Gabriel begin to breakout last season on the Falcons as he was a dynamic deep-threat receiver – that’s what we can expect, at least hope, Goodwin or Kerley to be molded into this season. One thing is certain, we can expect the pass game to increase dramatically this season

Notable WRs in the Draft: Mike Williams, Corey Davis, John Ross.

Notable Free Agent WRs: Anquan Boldin, Michael Floyd, Victor Cruz.

Running Back

The running back position may be the strongest on the team, shown by the fact that with 2,019 rushing yards the 49ers were fourth in the NFL in total rushing yards. Carlos Hyde lead that campaign with 988 yards through only thirteen games. The running game also includes Mike Davis and resigned journeyman DuJuan Harris, both of which are expected to become more prominent players in the Kyle Shanahan offense. Free-agent pickup Tim Hightower is another notable new piece to the run game. He may be an older running back, but this gives him some experience he can pass on to Carlos Hyde. Not to mention he has also worked with Shanahan in the past and Tim must have made enough of an impression for Kyle to bring the veteran to the bay.

Quite possibly the most talked about free-agency signing for the 49ers is Kyle Juszczyk. Juszczyk was made the highest paid fullback in NFL history with his $21 million contract, but John Lynch has been extremely adamant that his position will be more than that of a normal fullback. They have given him the title “Offensive Weapon” as they will use him as a versatile player to catch passes, run, block, play as a tight end, and probably some new things we’ve never seen before. Wait about four games into the season and no one will be talking about this signing as a bad thing, trust me.

Notable RBs in the Draft: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery, Dalvin Cook.

Notable Free Agent RBs: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeGarrette Blount.

Tight End

At the tight end position, we have Vance McDonald – former 55th overall pick for the 49ers. McDonald hasn’t had the impact the 49ers had hoped for yet, but he is still maintaining his starting position as a solid tight end. McDonald shines in this run blocking duties as a tight end and that could prove to be a good thing in this offense. McDonald’s new contract could be the encouragement he needs, at its base it is a three-year deal but can be bumped up to a five-year if the team elects. The contract also includes many incentives such as an extra $75,000 every season in which he gets 55+ receptions and another extra $75,000 every season in which he surpasses 700 yards. McDonald has yet to reach either milestone in his career, but maybe the new contract will push him to do so.

If you watched the Falcons play at all in the 2016 season, you know that the tight end is an integral part of the Shanahan offense. Neither Garrett Celek or Vance McDonald has played as a superstar tight end. But after being thrust into the starting role for the first time last season, McDonald most definitely showed signs of maturity as a player and can surprise everyone in an offense designed to make him thrive. Bringing in Logan Paulsen is the only tight end move that Kyle has made this offseason, and we could possibly see a reunion of his former tight end in Atlanta – Jacob Tamme, who is still unsigned as of now.

Notable TEs in the Draft: OJ Howard, Daivd Njoku, Evan Engram.

Notable Free Agent TEs: Jacob Tamme, Larry Donnell, Brandon Myers.

Offensive Line



Now to the core of every good offense – the offensive line. This group was not seen as one of the strongest in the NFL last year by far, but with some new additions, a new coach, and some better surroundings we may be in for a more protective group. With moves such as bringing in 2016 Pro-Bowler, Jeremy Zuttah from the Ravens, as well as Seattle offensive tackle Garry Gilliam who will compete for the spot of right tackle with Trent Brown. One additional move I can foresee with these new additions is moving Daniel Kilgore from the center position to the left guard. Kilgore went down with injury in Week 14 and required surgery, assuming he can come back healthy he could still be used as a valuable player that could help fill the spot of left guard that Zane Beadles has left streaky. Kilgore is too talented and versatile of a player to leave on the bench with holes like that and I think he could still thrive there.

As for the rest of the line, Joe Staley will continue to be a team leader as well as the cornerstone of the offense, protecting whatever QB is behind him. Sophomore right guard Joshua Garnett should come out and prove why it was worth it to trade up and draft him in the first round last year and the battle for starting right tackle will be a close one. At 6’8″ and 360 pounds Trent Brown will likely lock up the position, but with the latest acquisition of Garry
Gilliam he has a bit of a fire underneath him.

Notable OL in the Draft: Forrest Lamp, Ryan Ramczyk, Cam Robinson.

Notable Free Agent OL: King Dunlap, Ryan Clady, Nick Mangold.

You may have thought that was the end, but there is still one more crucial aspect of this offense on the rise. Arguably the biggest addition to the team this offseason…

Offensive Coordinator

Quarterback-whisperer Kyle Shanahan will be taking on the head coaching duties as well as those of an offensive coordinator. Kyle is one of, if not the best offensive mind in all of football today. Disregarding his lone season in Cleveland, every team Kyle Shanahan has served as offensive coordinator for has ended up in the top 5 in total offensive yards in the NFL for at least one season.

Year Team Rank Rank In Year Prior to Adding Kyle
2008-2009 Houston Texans 3rd in NFL 14th in NFL
2012-2013 Washington Redskins 5th in NFL 22nd in NFL
2016-2017 Atlanta Falcons 2nd in NFL 8th in NFL

Shanahan can also be credited with the massive accomplishment of taking the Atlanta Falcons all the way to the Super Bowl. If you are skeptical of Kyle’s association with this statistic, then look at where their offense was ranked one season prior to bringing in Shanahan as an OC. Kyle Shanahan is an offensive mastermind and has already proven his ability to make San Francisco a desirable location for free agents and draft prospects alike.

The 49ers appeared to have struck gold with the hiring of Kyle Shanahan. However, only time will tell how things play out in the Bay.


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