The bye weeks are now in everyone’s rear view mirror and looking at the free agent pool, it sure appears the window to get something out of it closed before Thanksgiving. Bodies started going down like dominoes last weekend, so one would think something would shake out of the wreckage this week, but that’s not the case. Marvin Jones got placed on Injured Reserve, but that’s just bad for the entire offense. Melvin Gordon’s lost for at least a couple weeks, but his backup was already on most rosters. Leonard Fournette didn’t get injured, but got suspended due to fighting. His replacements are two extremely uninteresting options on a team that just fired its offensive coordinator and is benching its starting quarterback, Blake Bortles. The list goes on, but it’s just more of the same – guys you don’t want to start now or any other time this season.
Then the name Dante Pettis hit the radar. A rookie with 11 catches on the year for a 2-9 team on its third quarterback. Admittedly, any other week I may have just moved onto the next one, but after examining this situation more in depth it hit me that this is the guy for this week. I’m not going to kid you into thinking this is your December savior, but unlike the other options available this week this one at least has a chance to.
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan’s quotes really put his entire situation into perspective.
“I feel like this last week or so is the first I’ve seen him get back to the form I thought he was at around the Minnesota game, which was the first game of the year,” Shanahan said. “I thought Dante was going to have a huge (Week 2) game against Detroit. He got banged up throughout that game, and it really set him back. He tried to play through it for a couple of weeks and it ended up putting him down for about a month. This last month, where he has gotten healthier, he’s gotten better each week, but he hasn’t fully gotten back to where he started out. I see it a lot more in practice now.”
Then he went out and had his best game of the year against Tampa Bay with four catches on six targets for 77 yards and a touchdown.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was not a big Pettis fan coming out of school, but the more I’ve learned about him the more I understand why San Francisco made the trade that it did to go get him in April’s draft. He is praised for his work ethic, that he is borderline overly critical of himself after good stretches but he also doesn’t get down on himself during rough patches. He doesn’t have any one unique trait, but he has the speed to run every route.
He also possesses the desire to learn and wants to perfect all of the different route combinations. If there is one area he is able to distinguish himself, it’s with his feet, that’s where he wins. He’s often criticized for his ability against press coverage, but given what he does with his feet, it’s extremely difficult to jam him up in the first place. This was on display on his touchdown last week; once in space he has consistent hands and creates extra yards after the catch.
With San Francisco in evaluation for 2019 mode, now is the perfect opportunity for the team to see what it has in Pettis. Jimmy Garoppolo is the quarterback and George Kittle is the featured tight end. Can Pettis be the team’s every week alpha at receiver? Or is he just a piece of the puzzle? Teammates Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin have been out of the lineup more than in and there’s only one way to find out if Pettis has that dog in him – and that’s to give him a shot.
Will it lead to production in our game? Maybe, maybe not. There’s a reason you’re thinking about him, though. You’re in need of another bullet in the chamber. You probably do not want to have to use it, but as this past weekend showed, it just takes one play for all that to change. Nick Mullens is not surprisingly fading after the cult-hero burst onto the scene against Oakland a few weeks ago, but remember that Shanahan is still the architect of this offense. If Pettis is a sustainable commodity then he will scheme him open enough to get him his production no matter the quarterback. Most importantly, what if he isn’t sustainable? The other receivers you’re thinking about will still be out there in a week or two anyway. They’re third, fourth and fifth options on their own team. The names may change week-to-week, but they’re always out there. A player being given the opportunity to emerge into one of his team’s top options won’t be.
This week’s Flavor of the Week: A new craft brew.
Most of them are the same as the dozens you’ve had prior, but you never know when you’re going to stumble upon one that separates themselves from the pack. Is Pettis one who you’ll grab out of the cooler at the next holiday party but forget about it the next day? Or is he one who will then have you set up email alerts at your local distributor so you know when it’s in stock? In most cases, the right play is to poke fun at the hipster, but on occasion, it’s OK to channel your own inner hipster. Get into Pettis now before it’s considered cool.