The Dallas Cowboys enter Sunday’s game facing pretty much an unknown at quarterback. The 49ers have promoted rookie C.J. Beathard to QB1 just in time to face a struggling Cowboys defense. Is this good news for San Francisco? Or the struggling Dallas defense? To find out more about the current quarterback situation out west, we turn to David Fucillo at Niners Nation for details.
Blogging The Boys: Tell us everything we need to know about C.J. Beathard and the change at quarterback.
Niners Nation: The 49ers seemed to be punting on the QB position in 2017 as they entered the season. They signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in free agency, and then moved up into the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft to select Beathard. After the draft, Shanahan said Beathard was the one guy he was really targeting. Most draft boards had him in the late part of day three, or potentially even going undrafted. Shanahan liked him for a few reasons. He liked his toughness in the pocket, his accuracy, his work with a pro style offense, and his leadership. He dealt with a lot of pass rush pressure his last two seasons at Iowa, leading the nation in playing under pressure in 2015, and third in the category in 2016. Suffice to say, he took a lot of hits.
Brian Hoyer was always viewed as a stop-gap, but I think most people figured the replacement would be in the form of Kirk Cousins or one of the 2018 draft prospects. That is still on the table, but now we likely get 10 weeks of Beathard starts to see what he can do. The 49ers have not been helped by receivers dropping passes, but the offensive line has been better than expected. The 49ers have had the most offensive success when they run no huddle offense. They have increased their no huddle rate the past four weeks, and I could see them continuing with that if they get the Cowboys defense on its heels at any point. Beathard was 6 of 7 on pass attempts out of the no huddle.
In limited snaps against Washington, Beathard made some big throws, but also had some issues hitting some of the deeper outs. One was almost intercepted, and the other was intercepted to close out the game. I suspect we see a lot of Beathard hitting his running backs and tight ends short, but Pierre Garçon will likely emerge as a big target for him given the surety of his hands.
There are a few interesting items to unpack there from a Cowboys perspective.
One thing the Cowboys have been pretty good at is getting pressure on the passer. Mainly thanks to DeMarcus Lawrence, but now with David Irving, it should get even better. According to the above Beathard handles that well, at least in taking the hits and not letting it rattle him. That was in college, so we’ll see if he can transport that ability to the NFL. He’s a rookie with only a couple of quarters of NFL reps. The Cowboys have to go after him and see what he’s made of, but at the same time don’t lose sight of Carlos Hyde.
If the 49ers go more no-huddle will that gas the Cowboys defense, or catch a young secondary unaware at some point? The Cowboys secondary, at times, is made up of a couple of rookies and a second-year player, they are not exactly oozing experience in those formations. One mistake in coverage can lead to a big play.
Also noted above, the 49ers will likely use a lot of running backs and tight ends in the passing game. Dallas has struggled containing those types of players. Sean Lee’s return, and a healthier Anthony Hitchens, should help with that, allowing the Cowboys to force Beathard into less safe areas and potentially get an interception or two. This defense desperately needs turnovers.