Jimmy Garoppolo, Richard Sherman additions could make 49ers formidable foe for Packers

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half Dec. 31, 2017, in Los Angeles.

Sixth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2018 regular season.

GREEN BAY - Everything about the direction of the San Francisco 49ers franchise changed last October when general manager John Lynch pulled off one of the biggest trades of the year: Lynch sent a second-round pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Trades for backup quarterbacks generally don’t send shockwaves across the National Football League, and in this case specifically the NFC West, but Garoppolo was the rare exception, a player deemed capable of taking over for Tom Brady whenever the future Hall of Famer decided to hang up his cleats. That the 49ers swiped him from Bill Belichick for the cost of a second-round pick was a rather large feather in Lynch’s cap.

Though the trade was completed in October, it wasn’t until Dec. 3 that Garoppolo made his first start for the 49ers. From that point forward, the team won its final five games of the regular season and scored at least 25 points in four consecutive weeks.

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Two months later, in February, the 49ers officially pegged their future to Garoppolo by signing him to a five-year extension worth $137.5 million, the richest deal in the league at the time. For a team that toiled at the bottom of the division in the post-Colin Kaepernick era, the 49ers suddenly had a lifeline toward the top of the NFC West.

Here are three things to know about the 49ers:

Lockdown corner

The 49ers made one of the splashiest acquisitions in this year’s free-agent market by signing cornerback Richard Sherman, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman, whose 2017 season ended with a torn Achilles, flew to Green Bay to have his surgery performed by Dr. Robert Anderson, a renowned foot and ankle specialist working out of Bellin Health Titletown Sports Medicine & Orthopedics across from Lambeau Field. The Seahawks released Sherman in early March to save $11 million against the salary cap as the reconfiguration of their once-vaunted secondary continues. Sherman proceeded to sign with the 49ers by negotiating his own contract: a three-year deal worth up to $27.15 million with $7 million virtually guaranteed.

New-look backfield

As the 49ers shuffled through quarterbacks in recent years, the mainstay on offense was tailback Carlos Hyde, a former second-round pick from Ohio State. Hyde ran for nearly 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and established himself as something of a workhorse back. Fourteen of his 21 career rushing touchdowns came in 2016 and '17 combined. But Hyde departed San Francisco when free agency opened in March, signing a three-year deal with the Cleveland Browns worth up to $15 million. The 49ers responded by signing former Minnesota Vikings tailback Jerick McKinnon, effectively making him their starting tailback. McKinnon’s contract is worth $30 million over four years. 

Former Packer

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has on his staff a very familiar face for Packers fans: Johnny Holland. Now 53, Holland is entering his second season as the 49ers' run game specialist and outside linebackers coach after joining the franchise from the Cleveland Browns. Holland was a former second-round pick by the Packers in 1987 and spent seven seasons as a linebacker in Green Bay. He broke into coaching as a member of the Packers’ staff in 1995, working as a defensive quality control coach before moving to special teams and, ultimately, linebackers coach in 1999. From there he bounced to the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, BC Lions (Canadian Football League) and the Browns before accepting a job in San Francisco. Holland was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2001. 

Packers schedule glimpse

Oct. 15 vs. 49ers, 7:15 p.m., ESPN

Week before: at Lions, Oct. 7.

Week after: Bye week. 

On the horizon: at Los Angeles Rams, Oct. 28.

San Francisco 49ers

Coach: Kyle Shanahan (6-10 overall, second season with San Francisco).

2017 record: 6-10, fourth in NFC West.

Scoring offense: 20.7 points per game (20th in NFL).

Total offense: 349.2 yards per game (12th).

Scoring defense: 23.9 points per game (25th).

Total defense: 351.6 yards per game (24th).

Series: Packers lead, 31-27-1.

Last meeting: The last non-exhibition meeting between these two teams took place in Week 4 of the 2015 season at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Packers were still adjusting to life without wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who suffered a torn ACL in training camp. Veteran James Jones had five catches for 98 yards to pace the offense, and tight end Richard Rodgers caught his team’s only touchdown through the air. A defense that had been emasculated by Colin Kaepernick on several prior occasions turned in a stellar performance under former coordinator Dom Capers, limiting Kaepernick to 217 total yards and sacking him six times. The Packers remained undefeated with a 17-3 victory.

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