Can new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo solve the San Francisco 49ers’ third-down efficiency problems? In this segment, we break down Garoppolo’s pre-snap reads.
This is the third installment in a series analyzing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s success on third downs. You can check out the first two here:
The following play will test Garoppolo’s ability to read a defense pre-snap, and then hit the open receiver with a quick pass.
The Patriots have a third-and-seven from the Miami Dolphins’ 48-yard line. New England is in 11 personnel, with Garoppolo in the shotgun. The Patriots have tight end Martellus Bennett lined up wide, with all three wide receivers — and running back James White — on the opposite side of the formation. The Dolphins are in nickel personnel with a single-high safety in front of a balanced front: three down linemen flanked by two additional defenders on each side, and two cornerbacks outside the numbers.
Garoppolo assesses the defense, and sees defensive end Jason Jones — previously lined up over wide receiver Julian Edelman — walk up to the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo knows Jones — a defensive lineman and an obvious mismatch against the speedy Edelman — is likely blitzing. This, along with the fact that Miami chose to cover Bennett with one of their three cornerbacks, means the Dolphins are likely in zone coverage:
When Garoppolo motions White to the opposite side of the formation, none of the Dolphins shift their positioning. The Patriots are still in an unbalanced formation, with three receivers to one side, and only two cornerbacks and a defensive end in the receivers’ general area. Garoppolo knows that once the ball is snapped, linebacker Kiko Alonso — lined up at middle linebacker — will have coverage responsibilities to the right side of the Patriots formation:
Garoppolo points out the “Mike” linebacker, Koa Misi. Misi will likely be responsible for the middle of the field; if he or the player next to him — safety Rashad Jones — blitzes, White will be responsible for the blitz pickup:
With Bennett running a clear-out route against the cornerback, and White and wide receiver Danny Amendola running routes short of the sticks, Garoppolo has two potential targets on this play; outside receiver Chris Hogan on the dig route in front of safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, or Edelman on the slant route between the two linebackers:
As the ball is snapped, both Jones and cornerback Bobby McCain blitz from the right side of the Patriots line. With the Dolphins bringing the extra rusher, Garoppolo knows he’ll only have time to get the ball to White or one of his two inside receivers:
When Alonso passes Edelman toward the flat, Garoppolo sees that Misi is in conflict between Edelman’s slant and White’s route out of the backfield. Garoppolo has a clean line to Edelman, who’s already near the line-to-gain:
Misi can’t make up the necessary ground, as Garoppolo hits Edelman with the pass, and the receiver turns upfield:
Edelman is finally taken down after a 19-yard gain, and a Patriots first down:
Garoppolo’s ability to read the defense pre-snap allowed the Patriots’ offensive line to effectively protect Garoppolo from the Dolphins’ blitz, which allowed Garoppolo to hit the open receiver for the first down:
In our next segment, we’ll take a look at how Garoppolo extends plays, and keeps his eyes downfield.