Have you noticed the biggest fear amongst 49ers fans is if the line can protect Jimmy Garoppolo or not?
Trent Brown of whom the 49ers traded to New England gave up only 4 sacks last season in a Patriots uniform from game one of the 2018 season all the way to the winning Tom Brady and company their 6th Super Bowl tittle.
T Brown is alive and well while now boasting being the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Strangely enough he won’t be continuing his career in New England, he’ll be aiding Jon Gruden’s Raiders.
Meanwhile the 49ers first round draft pick of 2018 Mike McGlinchey gave up a mind boggling 12 sacks while playing the whole 16 game schedule in 2018.
You have to keep in perspective however how difficult for even polished veterans like Joe Staley to move in the right direction on every play of the Kyle Shanahan playbook. He recently talked about how he now really gets it.
I make the comparison between Brown and McGlinchey just to focus the light on what must be a priority with Shanahan.
You’ve probably read somewhere by now that it’s near impossible to distinguish whether the 49ers are passing, or running out of their play action movements, which is ran the biggest percentage of the time when the Shanahan offensive machine is popping on all cylinders.
In his rookie season Mike McGlinchey’s run blocking prowess trumped Trent Brown who’s best while with Shanahan was an average of 3.2 yards of clearance for the back running behind him.
McGlinchey in contrast was road grading enough real estate for backs running behind him to put a 5.34 yards per carry average on their respective resumes.
This is why I’ve come to the conclusion that Kyle’s priority is first that an offensive lineman can run block. If that isn’t happening for Shanahan, his offense will be missing a key element to insure success.
McGlinchey was a rookie last year, and will most likely be a lot stronger due to exclusively training for football instead of the combine which could make a difference in his past blocking.
Joe Staley playing on the left side of the line and opposite of McGlinchey is being firmly held on to by the organization as he approaches his 35th birthday in August. Due to Staley’s continued excellence of clearing path for runners to the tune of 5.32 yards per escort, Staley continues to be indispensable.
Joe Staley is the full package, and his master craftsmanship was on par in pass protection as well in 2018, having only allowed 4 1/2 sacks.
Mike Person is pretty much just average at run blocking but interestingly enough Person was the 49ers best pass protector last season only allowing 4 sacks on the season.
That solid effort by Person was one of the reasons that even after he was able to return that we didn’t see much of Joshua Garnett.
The 49ers were impressed right on into the offseason giving Person a 3 year deal worth $8.25M.
Laken Tomlinson has continued to improve as well, and is doing a pretty good job at both pass protection and run blocking. He and Joe Staley however are both vulnerable to change of direction moves by pursuing defenders.
One of the the biggest benefits about having Dee Ford & Nick Bosa during training camp is that Both Staley, and Tomlison will be getting plenty of training for that particular weakness.
If there is a player to be seriously concerned about its center Weston Richburg who was constantly, and easily overpowered by defenders most of last season. Hopefully Richburg’s weak display was because of his torn quadricep tendon. He tried to play through that injury but was butchered on a regular basis after sustaining the injury in week 4.
The center position on Shanahan’s line is so important. One of the reasons the Falcons done so well while Shanahan was the OC was the brilliance of center Alex Mack. Mack was one of the major reasons Matt Ryan had an MVP season. Mack was the director of a large percentage of the success of the Falcon’s offense due to his ability to read what a defense was up to by just taking a glance, and communicating valuable intel to Matt Ryan all game long. At the same time, Mack was solid in both protection, and the run game.
Can Richburg emulate Mack? Maybe not, but he can do better than he did last season.
One thing all the offensive lineman agree upon is that they will all be given another season to mesh, and that could be the most potent ingredient in the 49ers 2019 formula for success. Time together for offensive lineman creates a chemistry that can make a big difference.