I wanted to do Midseason Grades by position, but I was hoping including the Raiders game would help add some positivity. Little did I know what was about to happen! With that being said, here are my position by position grades for the 49ers season at just after the halfway point:
I love the grit CJ Beathard plays with, and I love what Nick Mullens showed against a terrible, horrible, awful Raiders team. But the Quarterback play this year has been the main reason for the 49ers struggles. Even when Garopollo was playing, he did not look quite as good as the 49er Faithful was expecting, although those expectations may have been too high. It has not been all bad QB play, but it is hard to remember games like we had against Green Bay, when we have lost to the Cardinals twice due to absolutely porous play from CJ Beathard. Him and Garopollo both like to hold on to the ball too long, which has been maybe the number one reason for their struggles.
Matt Breida has broken out this year, and Raheem Mostert has shown flashes in his limited opportunities. Alfred Morris has not had to be called on much, but when needed, he has been an okay backup. Although Breida has veen extremely limited by health and playcalling, he has proven he deserves a starting job, and next season should be interesting when Jerick McKinnon comes back and is healthy. The main reason the group does not have an even better grade is the lack of opportunities, with Breida’s season high for carries in a game being only 16. Kyle Juszczyk has been consistent as ever this year, and has played exactly as expected. He continues to be the best of a dying Fullback breed.
Wide Receivers: D-
It’s hard to play well at receiver with poor QB play, but this group is making it look impossible. There was a lot of hype surrounding Marquis Goodwin this year, but he has been very limited aside from a couple huge plays. Pierre Garcon took a year and a half to catch his first touchdown as a 49er, and it was from our 3rd string Quarterback. Dante Pettis, after a fantastic touchdown grab in his first ever game, has been nonexistent. Trent Taylor, after a breakout rookie year, has done nothing. When you watch the tape, these guys just flat out aren’t getting open and helping the QB. This has easily been one of the most disappointing units on the team this season.
Tight Ends: A+
This is all George Kittle. The second year Tight End is absolutely lighting it up this year, and added an incredible highlight reel, one handed catch and run in traffic against Oakland to add to his impressive season. Although I thought Garrett Celek would be more involved this year, nothing can take away from the season George Kittle is having. He has been a top 3 tight end in the entire league, and is actually 7th in receiving yards out of everyone, not just tight ends. The future is very bright for him and our tight end group.
Offensive Line: A-
The stats may not show it, but our line has been stellar this year. Yes, we have taken a ton of sacks. But in our situation, many of those have been more due to the quarterbacks not releasing the ball on time than the offensive line. Mike Mcglinchey has proven worthy of our top pick in last year’s draft, Joe Staley is still Joe Staley, and Mike Person, Weston Richburg, and Laken Tomlinson have all been solid if not spectacular. This group is great, and I really, really hope we can keep this same line in tact for next season. If we can, we will contend for a Super Bowl.
Defensive Line: C+
Many people think this has been the most disappointing unit of 2018, but I disagree. Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead have yet to play up to expectations, but have started to turn it around in recent weeks. Ronald Blair has been lighting it up recently. DeForest Buckner is doing what we all thought he would: completely dominating. The main problem with the D-Line seems to be that Robert Saleh can’t figure out how to properly utilize them.
Reuben Foster, after a strong start, has regressed. Fred Warner has done the same, albeit to a lesser degree. Cassius Marsh has been outstanding lately, getting much needed pressure on the quarterback. Malcom Smith has not been the player we hoped when we signed him last year, possibly due to his major injury before last season. However, this line-backing crew has proven to be good enough to help us win games. They are definitely not the reason for this teams defensive struggles.
This is a tricky one, because Richard Sherman has been pretty much lights out this year, but the rest of the squad has been bad. Ahkello Witherspoon and Jimmy Ward have proven they don’t belong on an NFL roster. K’Waun Williams has been better, but still best suited for a Nickle Back role. Greg Mabin has had limited playing time, and hasn’t shown me one way or another what kind of player he will be.
This unit has been garbage. I truly believe we need a complete rebuild in the secondary. Jaquiski Tartt has been a disaster, DJ Reed Jr. looks over-matched, and Antone Exum has been burned over and over. The safety group, in my opinion, has the worst unit on a very bad team. Not much good to say here.
Special Teams: B
Robbie Gould has been his usual self, meaning he’s been just about automatic. Bradley Pinion is a middle of the road punter, who won’t always help the team, but rarely hurts us either. Kick and punt coverage has been good just about every week. Our return game hasn’t produced much.
I truly believe in Kyle Shanahan, but this year has put a large chip on his shoulder. Robert Saleh looks incompetent, and his system is not right for the personnel the 49ers currently have. We have not run the ball enough to win games, especially with backup quarterbacks. That is really my main issue with Kyle Shanahan’s playcalling. There is a lot to prove for the rest of this season and beyond.