SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers want Jimmy Garoppolo to improve his ability to read defenses.
Through five training camp practices, Garoppolo has completed only 34 of 62 passes, a sign of rust following almost a year away from football. But, the 49ers aren’t concerned with his accuracy. They like the way he throws a football. He completed 67.4% during his five-game winning streak with the 49ers in 2017.
Instead, the 49ers have focused on Garoppolo’s mental approach.
“Just be consistent,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said of Garoppolo on Thursday. “Do the same thing over and over. Go through the progressions the same way. Look at plays the same way. Don’t make the same mistake twice. When he does make a mistake, correct it the next day. Get it down before he leaves this building. Just continue to get better.”
These are the 49ers’ coaching points for Garoppolo as he returns from ACL surgery.
Garoppolo was injured Sept. 23. During OTAs and minicamp this offseason, he did not participate in 11-on-11 team drills, because the 49ers’ training staff hadn’t yet cleared him for full contact. But, he did participate in seven-on-seven drills, which allowed him to practice reading coverages and going through progressions.
“I think we have made progress in that area, reading coverages,” Garoppolo said. “Our defense has been giving us a ton of tough looks. It makes us better. During camp, you want it to be competitive like that. It’s good for us.”
Garoppolo didn’t seem to have an issue reading coverages during his first-five starts with the 49ers in 2017. In those games, Shanahan gave Garoppolo a pared-down version of the offensive playbook, because they acquired him midseason at the trade deadline and he didn’t have time to learn every play and formation.
Garoppolo excelled with the abbreviated playbook. His quarterback rating was 96.2 and he got sacked only eight times. But, in 2018, Garoppolo had to learn the 49ers’ entire playbook, and that’s when his issues began. In three games before he tore his ACL, he got sacked 13 times. Some of those sacks were his fault, because he held the ball too long in the pocket. He seemed overwhelmed with information.
Now, Garoppolo wants to simplify his thought-process and focus on the important details. To remind himself to focus, he has written the phrase, “Robot mindset” on his wristband. “It’s a thing I keep in my head just to stay locked in,” he said. “You don’t want to be distracted by the fans or the music. As a quarterback, that’s what you have to do. You have to have a robot mindset.”
At times in camp, Garoppolo’s “robot mindset” has gotten him in trouble. On Tuesday, he laser-focused on wide receiver Richie James before a play and threw him the ball without scanning the field. James was covered, the pass fell incomplete while Trent Taylor was wide open over the middle.
On Thursday, Garoppolo turned his laser-focus to Taylor. On a third-down play, Garoppolo stared down Taylor and telegraphed a pass to him which middle linebacker Fred Warner almost intercepted.
“I have to control him with my eyes more,” Garoppolo explained. “(Warner) made a good play on it. Those are the battles of camp. You want to have those. If the offense or defense was dominating, you’d be worried.”
NOTES: OL Joshua Garnett had surgery to repair a dislocated finger and will miss three weeks. … DL Dee Ford sat out team drills for the second practice in a row with knee tendinitis. … DL DeForest Buckner sat out practice with a mild toe strain.
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