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49ers Film Room: QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s third-down pre-snap adjustments

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49ers Garoppolo
© David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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 adjustments.

 

This is the second installment in a series analyzing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s success on third downs. Check out the first piece here.

The following play will test Garoppolo’s ability to read a defense pre-snap, and make the necessary adjustments at the line.

The Patriots have a third-and-four at the Miami Dolphins’ 10-yard line. New England is in 11 personnel, with Garoppolo in the shotgun. The Patriots are in an uneven formation, with tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receivers Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan all lined up to the wide side of the field:

49ers Garoppolo

Prior to the snap, Garoppolo motions running back James White to the short side of the field. Miami’s defense doesn’t shift, and linebacker Kiko Alonso doesn’t follow White; instead, free safety Usa Abdul-Quddus heads toward the sideline to match up against White:

49ers Garoppolo

Garoppolo knows that the Dolphins are in man coverage, and Alonso is likely blitzing, which will leave the middle of the field open for a potential pass. Garoppolo adjusts his offensive line to block to its right; by allowing the opposite-side linebacker to rush free, and keeping Bennett in to block, Garoppolo will have the time to execute a quick pass over the middle as he moves to his right:

49ers Garoppolo

The Dolphins are indeed in Man Free, or “Cover Zero,” with each member of the secondary responsible for the receiver in front of him, and no safety help:

49ers Garoppolo

With the blitz coming, Garoppolo will look for Amendola on the quick slant. Amendola is lined up a yard off the line, which will help against a potential press from cornerback Bobby McCain; it also helps that McCain continues to line up with outside leverage, even though he no longer has safety help inside:

49ers Garoppolo

As the ball is snapped, the Dolphins rush six — and then seven, when Bennett stays in to block. With four rushers against three lineman on Garoppolo’s blind side, Miami hopes to get to the quarterback before he can release a quick pass:

49ers Garoppolo

With his protection shifted to his right, Garoppolo moves right in the pocket as he waits for Amendola to break open inside:

49ers Garoppolo

Garoppolo is forced to make an off-balance pass due to defensive end Cameron Wake effectively closing the pocket:

49ers Garoppolo

The pass is on-target to Amendola, who catches the ball in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown:

49ers Garoppolo

By properly reading the defense, and making the necessary adjustments at the line, Garoppolo was able to turn a difficult situation into a simple pitch-and-catch for a score:

In our next segment, we’ll break down another one of Garoppolo’s third-down pre-snap reads.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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