Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football Focus explains why the 49ers O-line should be even better in 2020

Jul 6, 2020 at 12:57 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers offense lost veteran offensive tackle Joe Staley and guard Mike Person this offseason. Both have announced their retirements from football.

Could the 49ers offensive line be even better in 2020 despite the losses? Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus believes so. The analyst ranked the offensive lines throughout the league, and the 49ers group came in at No. 8 on his list. That's six spots higher than the unit ranked during the analytics site's 2019 regular-season rankings.

Palazzolo notes that the 49ers' offensive line should be even better in 2020, assuming its five starters can remain healthy. The team replaced Staley with veteran offensive tackle Trent Williams.

"The 49ers traded for Trent Williams during the 2020 NFL Draft," wrote Palazzolo, "and he had the fifth-best overall grade (90.8) among tackles from 2015-18. Williams is an excellent combination of smooth pass protector and powerful run blocker. Plus, his career-high 88.9 run-blocking grade came in 2013 in Kyle Shanahan's offensive system."

The analyst compliments the offensive line anchor opposite Williams, Mike McGlinchey, calling the third-year tackle a "top-notch run blocker and a capable pass blocker." There is room for improvement, though.

"His 81.2 run-blocking grade ranks eighth among tackles," noted Palazzolo, "but his 66.0 pass-blocking grade ranks just 73rd. He must improve that mark to take the next step in Year 3."

The analyst moves on to discuss the interior of the 49ers' offensive line.

"On the interior, left guard Laken Tomlinson has developed into a solid starter — his 68.8 overall grade last season ranked 23rd among guards including the playoffs," wrote Palazzolo. "San Francisco released right guard Mike Person, who allowed the seventh-most quarterback pressures (33) among guards during the regular season. For 2020, veteran Tom Compton is slated to start. Compton is about to see action for his sixth team, and he posted just a 61.8 overall grade in 2018 — his last season with extended playing time. Ben Garland could also be in the mix, as he provided valuable depth last season with a 71.6 grade on 416 snaps at center and also graded at 71.6 in 2018 with the Falcons at right guard."

Palazzolo also mentions Daniel Brunskill's contributions filling in down the stretch last season. The tackle earned an overall grade of 73.0 and allowed only nine pressures on 475 attempts.

Palazzolo believes the 49ers offensive line could be among the NFL's best should Williams, who did not play last season, and Weston Richburg return to form.

"Center Weston Richburg got hurt in Week 14 and will return to his starting post after a 62.5 overall grade in 2019 that ranked 23rd in the league," noted Palazzolo.

Richburg saw his Pro Football Focus grade drop year after year since his career-high of 90.0 in 2015. It dropped to 56.1 during his first season with San Francisco in 2018 before seeing a slight uptick to 62.5 last year. His pass-blocking grade of 75.1, however, was his best mark since 2016.

Richburg suffered a torn patellar tendon during that Week 14 win against the New Orleans Saints, ending his 2019 campaign.

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