Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports



San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Joshua Garnett suffered a knee injury during Saturday practices at training camp. While it's uncertain how long he'll be out, let's look at some possible replacement options.


The San Francisco 49ers received their first bit of serious-injury news this weekend, as the team lost both linebacker Malcolm Smith (chest) and offensive guard Joshua Garnett (knee) to injuries during practice.

During his post-practice press conference, head coach Kyle Shanahan remarked Garnett's injury could require surgery.

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The extent of Garnett's injury isn't known yet, but the 49ers are in a pretty precarious situation finding his replacement. For the most part, Garnett has been working with the first-team unit at left guard. And while he hasn't exactly been a standout during training camp, the Niners don't have the most likable options to plug in his spot. Remember, Football Outsiders ranked San Francisco's offensive line 30th in pass protection in 2016 and dead last in run blocking.

There are some fresh faces in Santa Clara, including veteran pickups Jeremy Zuttah, Tim Barnes and Brandon Fusco. But this unit remains largely unchanged from last season.

So how will the Niners go about finding Garnett's replacement? Here are some options.

Brandon Fusco


Fusco was a reliable starter for four of his six years with the Minnesota Vikings before signing a free-agent deal with San Francisco this offseason. At 29 years old, he still has plenty of football left in his body.

Last season, Pro Football Focus handed Fusco a 48.2 overall grade on the season -- ranked 58th out of 75 qualifying guards -- giving slightly higher marks to his run-blocking abilities than his pass protection.

Per Rob Lowder of Niners Wire, Fusco has been seeing plenty of time with the first-team unit, so this is merely just a case of deciding where Fusco lines up. Assuming Garnett was to win the starting left guard position, it seems likely Fusco simply bumps to this side of the O-line.

While Fusco is better in run support, and the Niners would ideally like to have at least one strong side against which to run, there might be a better option on this side of the line.

Daniel Kilgore


Zuttah and Daniel Kilgore, the incumbent, are battling it out for the starting center position alongside Tim Barnes.

It wouldn't be shocking to see Zuttah win this competition out of training camp, which makes Kilgore something of an excess commodity or, at least, a worthy backup. But Kilgore does have the bonus of doubling as a guard -- he played this position at times last year -- and could be a better option than Fusco, at least on the left side.

PFF gave Kilgore a 77.7 run-blocking grade last year, 71.5 overall, compared to the 50.5 run-blocking grade handed out to Fusco.

These analytical numbers help paint a slightly better picture on who is the better option, but it doesn't take into account Kilgore's injury history. The 29-year-old has yet to have a fully healthy season since taking over starting duties back in 2014.

Zane Beadles


The third option for San Francisco would be to go with the same choice the team made at the start of 2016, offensive guard Zane Beadles.

Beadles has largely been pushed out of first-team duties at training camp, mostly working with the second-team squad and filling in with the would-be starters only when needed. And if PFF grades are your thing, Beadles was given a lowly 39.5 overall grade last season.

It's likely Beadles retains a roster spot this season, considering he has the versatility to play all three O-line positions. This makes him an ultimate backup, of sorts, and the current situation with Garnett likely pushes him into the discussion to start.

This isn't exactly ideal, though, based off last year's numbers.

How the O-Line Shapes Up


It's an open-ended question right now, but the best scenario might be for the Niners to employ Joe Staley at left tackle, Kilgore at left guard, Zuttah at Center, Fusco at right guard and Trent Brown at right tackle.

This would mean Beadles retains his role as a primary backup for each of these positions.

But general manager John Lynch might be forced to scour the waiver wire when roster cuts are made following Week 4 of the preseason. Chances are there will be some noteworthy options cut. Yet another issue with this is O-lines take a bit longer to gel than other units. Given the complexity of Shanahan's offense, it's not likely any free-agent/waiver pickup would be able to contribute right away.

Regardless, the Niners are experiencing one of their first real setbacks since training camp began, and it will be a challenge to see how the team overcomes it.

Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise and 49ers Webzone and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @PeterPanacy on Twitter.