Sam Darnold might start for the 49ers, so how different – if at all – would they look?

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports activities)

So this week’s version of The Overhang was going to be about how some playoff favorites must be feeling and if there was any trigger for alarm from their Week 7 losses.

It nonetheless shall be (leap to the underside if you wish to learn in regards to the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Payments and Detroit Lions), however the principle focus this week is on the San Francisco 49ers, and particularly Sam Darnold, who’s abruptly extra possible than to not begin this Sunday after Brock Purdy entered concussion protocol.

How a lot would Sam Darnold beginning influence 49ers’ offense?

The 49ers had appeared like that they had a laminated card for the cool children’ desk in 2023 after their Week 5 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys. However now they’ve suffered two straight losses, with questions even arising for quarterback Brock Purdy. You recognize, the man who was tied for third in MVP odds simply two weeks in the past.

When it rains, it pours. And the droplets Wednesday have been formed like ones and fours.

Purdy in concussion protocol might imply Darnold will begin for the 49ers this weekend in opposition to the Cincinnati Bengals, as no NFL participant has performed the identical week that they entered the protocol thus far in 2023.

What is going to this explosive 49ers assault appear like with Darnold? Effectively, it possible gained’t change a lot from the way it seems to be with Purdy. Kyle Shanahan’s offense not often ventures removed from its run recreation staples and play-action performs.

Darnold offers a robust arm that may fireplace throws down the sphere on straight dropback ideas, which the 49ers toyed with within the preseason:

That’s an old-school sort of play. Line up below the middle, drop waaayyy again on a seven-step dropback (with no play fakes!), and simply fireplace a deep one-on-one route towards the sideline.

Darnold is greater than able to what the 49ers will ask. He’s comfy taking part in below middle and turning his again to the protection on play-action ideas, one thing Shanahan prefers to do together with his quarterbacks. He is an efficient athlete able to throwing on the transfer and dealing with designed QB runs to Bolo punch defenses:

That four-week stretch in 2021 when Sam Darnold’s legs have been probably the most devastating pink zone weapon within the NFL was a nod of what he can do when requested to run. Whereas I’m being a bit facetious, it nonetheless must be famous that it’s accessible.

Not that you simply need to construct the entire airplane out of Darnold runs. Or Darnold touches, interval. This offense is constructed to be as quarterback-proof as it may be. It’s a Shanahan offense, in spite of everything. Robust run recreation, play-action throws and dropback ideas that put a cap on development issue. All issues that can assist any quarterback, however particularly one like Darnold who can have irritating moments of decision-making which have held him again regardless of his flashes.

This offense and state of affairs is a good experiment taking part in out: “What if a traits-based however wildly inconsistent quarterback who can battle with limiting his selections performs with a coach who likes to have his quarterbacks level and shoot?”

Darnold shall be requested to mood his worst traits like making an attempt to do an excessive amount of and turning the ball over, or taking backbreaking sacks that nuke drives.

There couldn’t be an offense higher to restrict these tendencies, and Darnold’s means to create out of construction when issues go askew and push the ball would proceed to supply the wild-card factor for this offense that Purdy has additionally offered.

Maybe Purdy was the gateway drug to Darnold’s harmful delights.

The Sam Darnold of 2022-23 shouldn’t be the one who flamed out with the Jets

I’m not ignoring the elephant within the room that Darnold was statistically one of many worst quarterbacks in latest instances, rating thirty fifth in success price and EPA per dropback amongst 37 qualifying quarterbacks since 2019. He is above solely Davis Mills and fellow Jets excessive draft decide alum Zach Wilson.

However right here’s the kicker to all of this: Darnold performed nicely for the Panthers in 2022, and he performed nicely once more this preseason for the 49ers. A calendar yr of “hey, that is fairly good!” to go together with the flashes of S tier:

He churned out constructive performances in 5 of the six video games he performed in Carolina in 2022 and completed with simply his greatest season when it comes to success price and EPA per dropback, together with a QBR over 50 for the primary time in his profession. From Weeks 12 via 16 he threw for practically 8.8 yards per try with 9 whole touchdowns and, most significantly, solely three turnovers.

And that constructive play continued this preseason. The 49ers coaches appeared to love asking Darnold to throw it down the sphere and he was glad to oblige. He additionally confirmed off a consolation stage with gameplan-specific ideas like this development within the pink zone:

The tip zone view of that play is pleasurable to observe of Darnold as he notices the drawback leverage of a lot of the routes.

Relatively than panic and attempt to power a creation play, he continues alongside the development chain and hits Willie Snead alongside the again line of the top zone. He labored via the play as meant and the outcome was a landing.

It’s preseason, nevertheless it’s development. And most significantly it confirmed that Darnold’s means might be channeled into extra constantly constructive play.

However onto the common season. The crew that the 49ers and (possible) Darnold shall be taking part in this weekend has a defensive coordinator who salivates on the considered fooling one other quarterback.

This is what the 49ers shall be up in opposition to this week

Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is among the many league’s greatest in week-to-week gameplanning. He loves to alter seems to be on quarterbacks, particularly on third down.

I’ll present you a screenshot of a pre-snap third down look in opposition to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6, a recreation in opposition to one other former New York Jets quarterback in Geno Smith:

OK, now guess the place the Bengals’ defenders find yourself.

1 Mississippi … 2 Mississippi … 3 Mississippi …

So, bear in mind what you guessed. Assume exhausting.

As a result of right here is how the play really ended up unfolding:

The Bengals went from a blitz-heavy look, forcing communication between the Seahawks’ offensive line, Smith and rookie working again Zach Charbonnet, to a Cowl 2 look that may muddy up throwing lanes with arms. That may be particularly tough if the quarterback can’t correctly anticipate these throwing lanes, punishing tardy QBs who wait that additional half-second to verify what they’re seeing, even when they will the right spot, with tipped throws and potential interceptions.

Additionally discover the artful, quarterback-y transfer from Smith on this play. Relatively than attempt a higher-difficulty throw, particularly one which he won’t really feel comfy with making (not that Smith wants any nudging to push the ball, see tweet beneath), Smith merely checks the ball all the way down to Charbonnet, who promptly rumbles for a primary down and a recent set of performs. He additionally beats a closing cross rush, avoiding a unfavourable play.

Now Smith clips normally function him firing a Hadoken via a small window to a receiver just a few dozen yards downfield. Like this tractor beam in opposition to the Arizona Cardinals (the throw went to the fitting participant within the development, I promise):

However the Smith play in opposition to the Bengals offers one thing that Darnold can glean from and supply him a proton pack in case any ghosts begin exhibiting up. This offense thrives with staying on schedule. And when it’s time to drop again, you would possibly as nicely have Invoice Belichick’s “do your job” mantra screaming via the quarterback’s mind. A wise play like a checkdown is an effective way to get on base as a quarterback, slightly than attempt to tilt the shoulder again and swing for the fence each single time.

Time (and tape) are nonetheless on the aspect of Brock Purdy

The sky shouldn’t be falling within the Bay Space. The Cleveland Browns performed nicely in Week 6, however the 49ers moved the ball on the bottom on the vaunted Browns protection via the primary half till Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey bought damage. They usually have been nonetheless in place to win the sport regardless of not transferring the ball within the second half.

The 49ers — and Brock Purdy — constantly marched on the Minnesota Vikings this previous Monday evening, too, ripping off 19 first downs (and none from penalties) on solely 53 performs. The 49ers confronted solely two third-and-longs (7-plus yards to go) the whole evening and transformed on 5 of the 9 whole third downs they tried.

Purdy had a greater passing success price in Week 7 in opposition to the Vikings than he did Week 5 in opposition to the Cowboys. The truth is, when it comes to dropback success price, it was the fourth-best single-game efficiency by a quarterback within the NFL this complete season. And whereas the 49ers’ run recreation was fairly environment friendly all through the night, it was not prolific in any respect, with just one explosive run (a designed dashing play with a acquire of 12-plus yards). The 49ers have been compelled to search out their huge positive factors via the air.

However turnovers, and an offensive play-caller and quarterback firing on all cylinders like Kevin O’Connell and Kirk Cousins, have been sufficient to provide the 49ers that second tally within the “L” column. You can’t fully dismiss the late interceptions that Purdy threw, however he had a very good exhibiting till these moments. (Plus a McCaffrey fumble within the pink zone, and one other miss by kicker Jake Moody. Finest to get the dangerous rolls out now on this crapshoot we name the NFL season.)

The 49ers have their bye week subsequent week, which may permit Purdy to take a seat for 2 weeks and never rush again earlier than going through the Jacksonville Jaguars (who’ve a feisty protection this yr!) in a juicy Week 10 brouhaha.

Do Shanahan and the 49ers’ ability gamers assist Purdy? Completely. It is why I can by no means maintain a spot for him when speaking in regards to the league’s greatest nor as a sensible MVP candidate. (If it’s anybody from this offense to appoint, it will be McCaffrey.)

Regardless of these turnovers, he has performed nicely manner most of the time, even in a recreation perceived as one in every of his worst.

Purdy has a willingness to push the ball, however could have misses. He merely hasn’t been punished on these performs as typically as he ought to. He regressed at a brutal time in Week 7. However his efficiency earlier than has not been as dangerous because the post-island recreation narrative might need made it appear. Even when I’m enthusiastic about what Darnold will appear like on this 49ers offense, like seeing how a bucking thoroughbred will race with blinkers on for the primary time. One begin would nearly definitely not be sufficient for Shanahan and the 49ers to modify horses mid-race. (I assume so, anyhow.)

Even when it’s for one recreation, will probably be enjoyable to observe this experiment play out. Darnold has quite a lot of expertise and he offers fascinating abilities, even when it’s only a premium retailer model (traits-wise) model of what Purdy has been offering since he took over the job. I believe Shanahan has no points with making an attempt Darnold on for a whirl. And a take a look at just like the Bengals’ protection with Anarumo calling performs offers a possible for just a few theories and lingering inquiries to be answered about quarterbacks and their crew conditions. And I’m positive just a few extra questions will stay for us to ask afterward.

I imply take a look at this:

How frightened ought to Dolphins, Payments and Lions be?

Now again to the opposite three playoff favorites that misplaced in Week 7 in considerably alarming trend. For the Dolphins and Payments, it’s nearly getting wholesome. The Dolphins’ offensive line accidents hindered their run recreation in opposition to a stout Eagles defensive entrance, which has a trickle down impact of dangerous on Miami’s whole offense. And actually simply the whole Dolphins crew basically must get wholesome. Even Tyreek Hill showed up on the injury report Wednesday.

For the Payments, it’s their protection, with accidents to key gamers forcing reconfigurations on the fly. They even experimented with a little bit dime personnel (six defensive backs) to provide themselves some semblance of a solution on this new post-Matt Milano harm world. Their offense had a gradual begin in opposition to the Patriots, however they’ve always moved the ball in opposition to opponents. I do know Payments followers view offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey like Bobby Boucher’s mama considered Vicki Vallencourt, however he’s really a very good play-caller and the reconfigurations the Payments’ offense have sprinkled in — diversifying the run recreation and personnel groupings (be sure that to take a look at second-year huge receiver Khalil Shakir getting extra run) — have allowed them to reach alternative ways. They’re up there in all the underlying metrics.

It’s been good. The offensive line is improved, even when it’s not among the many league’s greatest. Mitch Morse can have a brutal lapse each every so often. After all Josh Allen might be chaotic, however the offensive adjustments have offered safeguards so issues don’t spiral an excessive amount of. However once they want Allen to go berserk, they let him go. And he’s solely a robust efficiency or two (with the Payments successful as nicely) from launching himself proper again into the MVP dialogue.

The Lions, in the meantime, could be greatest not going in opposition to Lamar Jackson having probably the greatest video games of his NFL profession as a passer. Jackson completed together with his greatest single-game efficiency when it comes to anticipated factors added (EPA) per dropback ever, amongst video games with 30 or extra dropbacks. With most of his injury coming from the pocket, Jackson has been devastating working inside construction, and nonetheless in a position to present just a few moments of that Lamar magic — like a virtually 10-second runaround landing cross to Nelson Agholor:

The Lions have a possible get-right recreation arising on Monday evening in opposition to the Las Vegas Raiders. Their defensive backs room retains battling accidents however hopefully can get some consistency. And their offense may use improved well being within the working backs room, the place David Montgomery’s means as a cross protector (groups will preserve testing Jahmyr Gibbs when he’s in there) and down-to-down effectivity as a rusher assist preserve the Lions on schedule.

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