Kyle Shanahan

Three reasons 49ers' offense will be more aggressive in 2023

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Three factors could lead the 49ers this season toward a more aggressive offensive approach.

San Francisco relied heavily on its defense in recent years, but the 2023 NFL season could be the time the offense takes a significant step forward to become the strength of the team.


-- The 49ers will have versatile star running back Christian McCaffrey from the beginning of the season to team up with tight end George Kittle and receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

-- Coach Kyle Shanahan demonstrated a lot of faith in quarterback Brock Purdy after he stepped into the lineup as a rookie. The 49ers believe Purdy is the present and future of the club.

-- And the 49ers will no longer be able to assume any time they get around the 30-yard line they have an automatic three points now that reliable veteran kicker Robbie Gould is no longer on the team.

Those three factors could prompt Shanahan to be more aggressive than he has been since taking over as the 49ers’ head coach in 2017.

The 49ers regularly passed up fourth-and-short chances in order to take the points with Gould, who made 90.2 percent of his field-goal attempts inside 50 yards during his six seasons with the club. In nine postseason games, Gould was a perfect 21 for 21.

Only three teams in the NFL converted fewer fourth-down opportunities than the 49ers last season. They made just seven of their 17 fourth-down attempts. In comparison, the Philadelphia Eagles were 22 of 32 (68.6 percent) on fourth downs.

With the unknowns surrounding rookie kicker Jake Moody, the 49ers might put more on the plate of the offense to keep drives going with fourth-down attempts.

It makes sense for the 49ers to be more aggressive with the multi-dimensional threat of McCaffrey, along with the accuracy and playmaking of Purdy behind center.

McCaffrey took part in his first offseason program with the 49ers after he was acquired in an October trade with the Carolina Panthers.

In 14 games, including the postseason, McCaffrey carried 199 times for 984 yards and eight touchdowns while catching 64 passes for 525 yards and five touchdowns.

McCaffrey causes matchup issues on fourth-down plays, and could provide easy pitch-and-catch opportunities for others, too.

Purdy’s decision-making and accuracy are good fits for a team that might be more inclined to go for it on fourth downs. In Week 13, Purdy took over as the team’s quarterback after Jimmy Garoppolo was lost for the season with a fractured foot.

After averaging 22.6 points per game in the first 11 games of the season, the 49ers’ offense took off after Purdy entered the lineup.

In the final six regular-season games, San Francisco averaged 33.5 points per game. Then, they scored 41 and 19 points in victories over Seattle and Dallas to advance to the NFC Championship game.

Kansas City led the NFL at 29.2 points per game for the entire season.

Purdy appears to be making good progress from surgery to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The 49ers have signaled that if Purdy is healthy, the starting job belongs to him.

It is clear he earned Shanahan’s confidence, and that should carry over from the beginning of the upcoming season.

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