Whenever San Francisco 49ers fans begin to feel their oats after finishing the 2017 season undefeated with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, a party-pooper will point out that five starts are a miniscule sample size.
Jimmy G flashed an impressive skill set with a lightning quick release, ability to throw off any platform, and intelligence to dissect defenses.
With an offseason to study those five starts -- and his two in New England -- defenders will begin to build a book on the quarterback, which could lead to a dip in productivity for a period.
During mandatory minicamp, veteran Richard Sherman said he's already found a small tell in Garoppolo's game.
"You just need to read him -- hand off ball; he's letting it go," Sherman said, per Patrick Holloway of Niners Nation. "You have to be decisive when you make those decisions. If he takes his hand off the ball and doesn't throw it, I think he'll throw guys off, but when he takes his hand off the ball, you've got to be ready to break."
If you tend towards snarky responses in such situations, surely you're thinking: (initiate personal snide accent) 'A QB taking his hand off the ball before throwing? Oh, bloody hell, who would have thunk it?'
While Jimmy G's quick release can overcome the split-second tell on when he's preparing to throw the ball, the broader point Sherman is making is poignant. Defenses will comb through Garoppolo's tape searching for any clue about the still-young quarterback. How does he walk to the line? Is his drop different on a certain type of play? Do his mechanics give anything away?
Sherman pointing out things he notices about the quarterback are a collateral benefit to the Niners adding the All-Pro veteran. Any other year, Sherman would have kept that information to himself and used the note to get a split-second jump on his division rival.
As defenses build their book on Garoppolo, we should expect some dips in production -- he clearly won't go undefeated for his career. The highly paid quarterback reportedly struggled some this offseason, which is nothing the coaching staff is fretting about.
"I like to see Jimmy make mistakes," Kyle Shanahan previously said. "I like seeing him come in and work on it. I like seeing him correct what he messed up two days ago. He felt the mistake. He understood why it was wrong and then he wants to correct it himself. I want him to understand it. Sometimes when things don't work out, you learn. You've got to know the whys and that's what allows you to have continued success over time."
Correcting practice mistakes and small tells are what the offseason is best used for.