Goodwin adds finesse to speed
Unlike doing the long jump, playing receiver is more difficult to rehearse. Without a defender trying to disrupt a long jumper’s timing, the opponent is usually a flaw in technique.
Few know the subtleties of both track and field and pro football like 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin. Predictably, the 2012 Olympian’s speed is his biggest asset. Five of his six career touchdown receptions have gone for 40 yards or longer, while he often streaks past defenders to get open.
But entering his first season with San Francisco, Goodwin, who finished 10th in the long jump in London, is working on what he couldn’t do in track and field. He’s focusing on change of direction, diversifying his routes and becoming more than a deep threat.
“I’m constantly evolving as a receiver,” he said. “People are used to seeing me run just ‘go-balls.’ That’s not the case” anymore.
Through a handful of training camp practices, Goodwin has emerged as the speed element of the 49ers’ offense. He’s often been the target of deep passes from new quarterback Brian Hoyer, giving 2016’s last-ranked passing attack an element it lacked.
Before joining the Buffalo Bills in the 2013 NFL draft, Goodwin posted one of the fastest 40 times in scouting combine history at 4.27 seconds.
Goodwin has been using his speed to get open in different ways. As defenders brace for his downfield burst, Goodwin can break off those deep routes and get open at other levels of the defense.
“If you’re scaring people and they’re making sure they’re going to defend that go route, then it makes it a little bit easier to get some completions underneath,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Shanahan made adding speed to San Francisco’s offense a priority after becoming coach in February. He orchestrated a historically potent offense in Atlanta as coordinator, in part because of receivers who could stretch defenses deep. Goodwin offers that characteristic, but becoming more well-rounded has been an emphasis since he joined the 49ers.
“That’s something that he believes in. We do, too. That’s why we brought him here,” said Shanahan. “I think it’s very tough to succeed in this league for very long when all you are is a speed guy, because people can run with you if they get a 15-yard head start. They just meet you where you’re ending up.”
Goodwin joined Hoyer for a three-day throwing session at Southern Methodist University in early July to get ready for training camp. Hoyer realized then that Goodwin was more than a receiver solely reliant on speed.
“I could tell he’d been working at it,” Hoyer said. “I think the good decision he made was to come here, because Kyle knows how to use guys like that and he’s willing to put the work in and he’s done a great job.”
49ers QB Brian Hoyer (2) found out during offseason work that receiver Marquis Goodwin (11) had improved his route-running skills.