Juice Check

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Week 1: Breaking down his work vs. the Vikings It sounds like a joke, claiming
that San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk is the key to the offense of his
fellow Kyle (Shanahan). And some otherwise intelligent people can’t get over how
much the Harvard-educated blocking back is getting paid.But I stand by that
statement. Generally, Shanny’s scheme is all about being multiple, all the time.
Any player allowed to touch the football can score on you, on any play, even a
blocking TE such as Levine Toilolo. More specifically, 2-back formations
including Juice pressure teams to keep their base defense on the field, allowing
Shanahan to pass against a slower, heavier lineup. Of course, if they switch to
a nickel defense, it’s that much easier to pound the ball down their throat
behind his grade-paving. Anything is possible on nearly any play, giving
Shanahan the upper hand in the chess game against defensive coordinators.So I’m
tracking Juice play by play this year, and will check in from time to time with
reports on how he is being used. Why? Because I can (spell his name). And
considering Jerick McKinnon’s absence from the passing game Earl
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, it opens up a lot of possibilities for Juice and
others.By my count in Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings, Juszczyk was in on
28 offensive plays and 4 on special teams, all punt coverage. Two of his
offensive snaps were called back on penalties, but the play ran so I’m including
them in this analysis.It was impressive how varied his formations were. He lined
up as an I-formation fullback on 18 of those 28 snaps, though he motioned to an
inline spot (like a TE at one or the other end of the offensive line) on three
of those.He was inline all the way three other times, in the slot thrice (but
motioned out on two of them), and a split back or lone tail back twice each.
It’s clear that Juszczyk’s main role remains blocking; he ran just nine routes
on his 28 snaps, targeted twice, with his huge 56-yard play the most memorable.
With 10:41 left in the 3rd quarter,Shanahan motioned Juice into the right slot,
and Jimmy Garoppolo faked a hand off to Alfred Morris running to his right. The
fullback ran up to OLB Ben Gedeon as if he were going to block him on a screen
pass to Morris, but he let Gedeon “evade” him to focus on the running back, and
ran down the sideline wide open for a 29-yard reception. Then he added a nifty
cutback to grab another 27 yards after the catch — the total of 56 yards was the
biggest for either team all night.Shanahan had set this up with a first quarter
play where Juszczyk also lined up in the right slot and blocked Gedeon on a
outside zone run to the right.His other target Authentic
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, in the red zone, came on what was designed
to look like a “split zone” play, where he (or more often a tight end) runs
opposite the play’s flow to block a backside linebacker or lineman from chasing
down the runner from behind. Instead he ran a drag route and was open, but
Garoppolo’s pass on a naked bootleg was at his toes, uncatchable. If Jimmy G had
hit the FB in stride, it looked good for at least ten yards down to the five
yard line, and possibly a touchdown.Even when he wasn’t targeted, Juice’s route
running was valuable in attacking the defense.His 3rd quarter wheel route drew S
Harrison Smith deep down the right sideline, allowing QB Jimmy Garoppolo to run
left (safely) and pick up the first down. At 8:53 of the first quarter, on the
49ers third play, Shanahan motioned the FB to line up wide left, drawing CB Trae
Waynes out to cover him on a go route.That left TE George Kittle in the slot
facing DE Everson Griffen, who drew a defensive holding penalty (hands to the
face) trying to jam him at the line.Most of Juszczyk’s snaps were good
old-fashioned lead blocking on runs Youth Joe
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, though. He had just three plays in pass protection,
and one was excellent; on George Kittle’s deep drop at 10:57 of the 3Q, which
should have been a huge play, he picked up Danielle Hunter who was running free
on the far side of the pocket, giving Garoppolo enough time to get his pass off.
Juice failed to seal off a couple of defenders on runs but was mostly excellent,
including a pancake of Anthony Barr at 9:28 of the second quarter.While Juszczyk
is an all-around “offensive weapon,” Shanahan hasn’t quite reached his goal of
being able to pass or run with any lineup. In the 4th quarter when the Niners
were passing as they attempted to come back, Juice only played four snaps, and
one of those was on punt coverage. The team only ran twice when he was on the
bench; Shanny apparently preferred 11 personnel or even empty set to the
blocking-plus-occasional-pass that the younger Kyle brings.As the season
develops, it will be interesting to see how Juszczyk is used. Will he pick up a
few snaps running the ball himself, given McKinnon’s injury? Can he become a
major receiver, or is he more valuable forcing CBs to cover him and leaving
linebackers on Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin? The Juice Check column will be
here to let you know. When it comes to the 2019 draft class the receiver group
stands out. The narrative surrounding the receiver class as a whole is that,
“There isn’t a clear cut number one guy 49ers
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,” which honestly is a positive thing for the
49ers. Where there isn’t a clear wide receiver one, there is plenty of depth in
the receiver class— another positive for the 49ers. Receiver is a clear position
of need for the 49ers, but edge, defensive back and offensive line are all needs
at premier positions which pushes receiver down on their big board. If there was
ever a class to take a receiver late it’s 2019. We’ve taken a look at receivers
like Keelan Doss and Andy Isabella, but what other receivers could be available
late for Kyle Shanahan and Wes Welker to mold?After spending some time watching
Wake Forest’s receiver Greg Dortch it’s hard to ignore his skillset that could
fit the 49ers. CraftyWatching Dortch, one thing that sticks out is his
creativity. He continually lures defenders in with his route running or footwork
then breaks away with head fakes and unique body movement. He’s not a burner,
but uses his speed to separate when he needs to. There’s a lot of subtle and
trickery Dortch’s game. When watching Dortch the word crafty seems to run
through my mind time and time again. Creativity and crafty are words I thought
of when watching Dante Pettis at the college level, and we know how much
Shanahan valued those things when selecting Pettis in the second round. Dortch
primarily uses his creativity when it comes to his footwork off the line. Even
though Dortch is small in size, he releases off the line with ease time and time
again against defenders bigger than him. Dortch’s best skill is probably his
release off the line of scrimmage ability, which is trait you don’t often see in
young prospects. His refined release skills could go along way in Shanahan’s
offense. A Nose For The EndzoneFor his size, (which is something we’ll get to
later) Dortch has a real knack when it comes to finding the endzone. He scored
in 17 touchdowns in two seasons at Wake Forest. He racked up nine touchdowns as
a freshman in 2017 in only eight games.It’s worth mentioning Dortch was a
production machine for the Deac’s over his career. He had seven games with over
110 yards receiving. Twice in his career he had games with four touchdown
receptions. Unlike guys like Doss and Isabella, Dortch did this against power-5
competition in the ACC. The 49ers badly need help when it comes to receivers
finding the endzone, Pettis lead the team in 2018 with only five touchdowns.
SizeThe biggest issue with Dortch is his size Cheap
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, it’s the reason he could fall to day
three in the draft. He stands at 5’9 and only 170 lbs. He’s small, and doesn’t
have blazing speed, so there is some cause for concern. He needs to bulk up a
bit to help fight injuries— something he’s dealt with in his career.Dortch
suffered a punctured intestine at Wake Forest after falling on a pylon while
scoring a touchdown versus Louisville in 2017. Dortch recovered and bounced back
nicely for a big 2018, but his injury history is something to monitor due to his
size. Dortch needs to add some muscle, because 50/50 balls he rarely wins.
Dortch has really nice hands as a receiver but can get bullied by bigger
defenders which is a problem he could run into at the next level. The positive
in all this is Dortch can still build size. NFL strength and conditioning
programs can do wonders for young prospects. Plus, the NFL is trending toward
featuring smaller receivers like Tyler Lockett, Brandon Cooks and Tyreek Hill.
Each of these players are known as dynamic playmakers regardless of
size.AgeOutside of all the things I already mentioned about Dortch, another
thing that is intriguing is his youth. Dortch is only 20 years old and one of
the youngest prospects in the entire draft pool. Dortch could continue to
develop with the right coaching. The 49ers new coach, and former All-Pro Wes
Welker could mold Dortch with his exclusive experience as a slot receiver.
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