49ers: Kyle Shanahan’s Offense will have Defenses Playing on their Heels

Niners Live examines Kyle Shanahan’s system of offense and shows you how potentially lethal it may become.


The 2017 San Francisco 49ers offense has the potential to be known as, “The Greatest Show on Grass”. If Kyle Shanahan’s tenure as Offensive Coordinator for the 2016 Atlanta Falcons serves as an indicator; then the 49er Faithful has a lot to look forward to when it comes to the 2017 offense. Yes, it may sound crazy at first glance, especially to fans of the Los Angeles Rams, but let me explain to you why this moniker is not far-fetched.

Kirk Cousins has no doubt been mentioned in most conversations as the presumed starter for next season. Frankly, Bryan Hoyer has many doubting his ability to play the position, but that would be a mistake. If you were to average his past three seasons in Cleveland, Houston and Chicago respectively, you will see that Hoyer would have thrown for over 3,800 yards with 19 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, numbers which are not bad at all. Hoyer’s confidence in and familiarity with Shanahan’s system while with the 2014 Cleveland Browns shows, as he has thrown only one interception in camp thus far. He’s cool under pressure, isn’t easily rattled, and makes the right decisions; something we couldn’t say about the 49ers’ quarterbacks last season.

The 49ers have been a run first team for the past five seasons. Mainly, the offense depended on one back to be the catalyst, which led to injury, or at least it did in the case of Carlos Hyde. The beauty of this offense is its ability to keep the running backs fresh at all times. Instead of Hyde carrying the ball 20 to 30 times per game; you will see Tim Hightower get 10 to 15 carries and contributions from Joe Williams and a fourth running back (either Kapri Bibbs or Matt Breida) will keep defenses gasping for air. Just as a reminder of how well this system works, under Shanahan, the 2016 Atlanta Falcons ranked 5th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. When you consider how balanced Shanahan keeps his offense, opposing defenses will have to pick their poison in terms of trying to stop the run or the pass.

To say that Kyle Shanahan loves the offensive passing game would be an understatement. The 2016 Atlanta Falcons were ranked 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards. Now it does help to have a receiver like Julio Jones, but John Lynch didn’t do too shabby in assembling the 2017 receiving corps. The new General Manager acquired Pierre Garcon in free agency and virtually stole Marquise Goodwin who has been lighting it up in training camp. Jeremy Kerley has been a reliable target in the slot and Trent Taylor proved to be a great talent in camp. Aldrick Robinson’s familiarity with Shanahan’s system as well as his ability to stretch the field gives the 49ers two deep targets, which makes this offense a threat every time the ball is snapped. Having tight ends Logan Paulsen along with rookie George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk gives Hoyer even more options to stretch the field.

The offensive line was pretty much set with Joe Staley and Trent Brown at the tackle positions; Jeremy Zuttah at center and Zane Beadles at guard. The injury to Joshua Garnett at the other guard positon, (via the team’s website) makes Daniel Kilgore the favorite to win the other spot; although Tim Barnes and Brandon Fusco will certainly get their chance. This is the group with the most to prove as the scheme has changed. There will be a stronger emphasis on pass protection, which means more blocks up the field. The plus for 49er fans is that, overall, this group is better in terms of depth and they will be tested early.

In Conclusion:

This is a fast-paced offense, which means conditioning is a must. It also means that better decisions must be made at the pre-snap. The fact that this system allows the offense to make quick work of the play clock; gives ulcers to opposing defensive coordinators. What does this mean for 49er fans? It means you’ll need to have your snacks ready; because the offense of the 2017 San Francisco 49ers will be so fast you’ll miss something if you’re not completely focused.

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and new Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims

2 thoughts on “49ers: Kyle Shanahan’s Offense will have Defenses Playing on their Heels

  • August 8, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    It’s hard to get excited about Goodwin. For the Bills he was ‘always lighting it up in training camp.’ Then came the regular season and injuries and less than two-reception a game when he did play.

    So while I hope he produces, I see no reason to get excited.

  • August 9, 2017 at 10:02 am

    One can certainly hope. Because it’s been over a decade since anyone feared a 49er offense.

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