1 area Brock Purdy must improve in 2024

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was excellent in the 2023 season. In his first full season as a starter Purdy broke the 49ers single-season passing yards record, finished fourth in MVP voting, and led the NFL in touchdown rate, yards per attempt, passer rating and QBR. Despite the gaudy numbers though there’s one glaring area Purdy has to improve in.

The bread and butter for San Francisco’s passing offense is the middle of the field. For Purdy in particular it’s the intermediate area (10-19 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) in the middle of the field. While he was dynamite on those throws in his rookie season, he struggled there last year as the league started to catch on to what the 49ers offense was going to look like with Purdy in it.

Purdy on intermediate throws overall completed 65.7 percent of his 143 throws for 1,798 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Splitting the field into horizontal thirds though it becomes clear where the problem area is for the 49ers QB.

On throws to the middle of the field at the 10-19 yard depth, Purdy threw all six of his intermediate interceptions and had a whopping 10 turnover worthy plays according to Pro Football Focus. He had seven turnover worthy plays in all other areas of the field combined. That cannot continue to be the case if Purdy is going to continue ascending as a quarterback.

The good news is there are ways to fix this problem. A culprit for the high amount of TWPs in the intermediate middle could just be the lack of offseason work for Purdy. Because he was rehabbing his elbow, Purdy didn’t get to have a regular offseason where he got to be in practices repping things he saw on film. Training camp began by the time he was able to play so the time to improve was over and preparations for the season were underway.

This offseason will give him an opportunity to see what defenses were doing to him on those plays and start deciphering ways to counter it.

The bad news is there’s always going to be some level of risk in the way Purdy plays because he’s not afraid to let it rip if he sees (or thinks he sees) a window. His lack of elite physical tools are going to get him into some  trouble on tight-window throws. Limiting such plays will be crucial though. Sometimes a defender is going to make a play, but Purdy has to start cutting down on the interceptions or near interceptions where a defender is able to make an easy read in the middle of the field to step in and get hands on the football.

Once those throws are cut down, we’ll really see Purdy start elevating the 49ers offense as an out-of-structure playmaker. We’ve seen glimpses of it, but now the next evolution for him in 2024 will be holding the ball when defenders are waiting in the middle of the field and making a play on his own when that throw isn’t available. When he does that more consistently it’s going to be almost impossible to slow a 49ers offense that is already one of the NFL’s best.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire