49ERS REPORT CARD
Niner Report|November 2020
Handing out grades to the 49ers as they close in on the midpoint of their 2020 season along with the bottom line at each positional area of the team.
Craig Massei

QUARTERBACKS: C

The plan was for Jimmy Garoppolo to build on the excellent numbers he produced last season while guiding the 49ers to the Super Bowl and take the next step to the top echelon of NFL quarterbacks. But not much has gone according to plan for the 2020 49ers in this peculiar season where nothing has seemed quite right for San Francisco from the very start. That’s particularly true at quarterback, where not even Plan B (Nick Mullens) or Plan C (C.J. Beathard) has worked out well for the team.

Garoppolo, indecisive in the pocket and throwing late, could not lead the 49ers to a fourth-quarter comeback victory in the opener against Arizona, a task he had been successful at four times during the team’s dominant 2019 season. That set the early tone for the season, and Garoppolo’s development was further thwarted by a high ankle sprain early in Week 2 at New York, an injury that kept him out the next 2½ games. Garoppolo had the worst start of his career upon his return in Week 5, making observers wonder if he should have even been out on the field.

Mullens was terrific in his Week 3 start in place of Garoppolo, running the offense superbly and passing for 343 yards during a 369 rout over the New York Giants. But his weaknesses were exposed in Week 4 against Philadelphia, when Mullens committed three killer turnovers and was eventually pulled in favor of Beathard, who looked good leading a late rally against the Eagles’ soft prevent defense. But when getting a longer look after Garoppolo was pulled in Week 5, Beathard looked like a fourth-year quarterback who had made little improvement since the last time he played in a game in 2018.

Bottom line: The 49ers felt so good about their quarterback room entering this season while carrying three players on their active roster at the position for the second consecutive year. That faith has to be rattled a bit after what they’ve seen over the first half of 2020, and the pressure will be on Garoppolo to lift his game and keep the 49ers in playoff contention against a gauntlet of playoff contenders over the second half of the season.

RUNNING BACKS: A

Bulked up and eager to continue his progress as the team’s lead back, Raheem Mostert is a big play waiting to happen, as he displayed in very quick fashion by taking a short pass 76 yards for a touchdown in the opener and taking a quick pitch 80 yards for a touchdown in Week 2, producing the fastest time recorded by a NFL player over the past five years during that run. Mostert has added some strength and tackle-breaking power to his elusiveness and likely would be near the top of the leaderboard for NFL rushers if he hadn’t missed two weeks with a sprained knee. As it is, Mostert led all NFL rushers with a 7.0 average entering Week 6, illustrating what a fine weapon he has become.

Jerick McKinnon has looked very good at times in his return from the knee injury that kept him out over the past two seasons, averaging 5.5 yards as the top backup to McKinnon and also ranking among the team’s leading receivers as an outlet valve in the passing game.

Versatile four-time Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk remains a receiving threat as well, and along with his quality blocking, even rushed for the first touchdown of his four seasons in a San Francisco uniform during Week 5.

Tevin Coleman averaged just 1.7 yards per carry before a knee injury took him down in Week 2, and Jeff Wilson was averaging just 2.4 yards in late October as the other short yardage back.

Bottom line: Mostert has suddenly blossomed into one of the most exciting gamebreakers in the NFL. The 49ers need to get him the ball, but they also need to keep him healthy. That’s why it’s essential they make optimum use of the rest of their capable backs moving forward.

WIDE RECEIVERS: C

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