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Trench Warfare: The 49ers Offensive Line

Mar 23, 2022 at 10:40 AM--

Thinking back to some of the San Francisco 49ers' most memorable losses during the Shanahan era, the two most prominent were the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams this past season. The Super Bowl loss stung more because seven minutes remained on the clock, and the 49ers were up by 10 points. The blame for the failure starts from the coach's play-calling and decision-making and continues to the quarterback's poor execution and the defense not sealing the deal.

During this off-season, the 49ers lost some key pieces on both sides of the ball. Let's focus on the trenches. The trenches are the dirtiest, most dangerous, and most challenging place on the football field. It is where the game is fought at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Games are won and lost in the trenches.

Former 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson (Jets) and Tom Compton (Broncos) left in free agency. The 49ers' current offensive line includes Trent Williams at left tackle, Alex Mack at center, and Daniel Brunskill at right guard. 49ers tackle Justin Skule should be returning from injured reserve after suffering an ACL injury last season during OTAs (organized team activities).

In 2021, the 49ers drafted two guards, Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore. Jaylon Moore played left tackle, subbing for the injured Trent Wiliams, but his natural position is at guard. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey is guaranteed $10.88 million in 2022, but he's also recovering from the torn quad injury he suffered in week seven's matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers hope he returns to play right tackle, but it's not set in stone.

Right tackle Tom Compton signed with the Denver Broncos. Compton was the replacement for McGlinchey. On March 9, the 49ers extended center Jake Brendel, which will provide some relief for Mack. If Mack chooses to retire and not return to football, Brendel could be the starting center for the 49ers. Brunskill was tendered with the right-of-first-refusal for $2.43 million. Brunskill isn't the best offensive lineman, but he's the most versatile.

Last but certainly not least is offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, a 2020 fifth-round draft pick by the 49ers. McKivitz played 70 snaps and allowed four pressures and two sacks. The potential starting offensive line for the 49ers in the 2022 season can potentially be Williams, Banks, Mack, Brunskill, and Moore.

The 49ers have two options to replenish the offensive line. The first is free agency, but the 49ers are very close to running out of cap space. According to OverTheCap, the 49ers have about $4.5 million available. If they were to target a free agent, I would suggest the ex-Browns center, J.C. Tretter. The Packers drafted him in 2014. Tretter lined up at the right tackle position with the Packers and as an inline tight end in his first two seasons. Tretter only allowed nine sacks, seven quarterback hits, and 88 pressures. His versatility screams Kyle Shanahan. If signed, he can play right tackle, and the 49ers can slide Moore to right guard or keep Brunskill there. The other bonus of having Tretter is replacing Mack at center if he chooses to retire in 2022 or the future.

The second option is the draft, and with nine selections, the 49ers will have options. The 49ers' highest draft picks are 61 (second round), 93 (third round), and 105 (third round). If the 49ers are looking for someone to plug and play now, they may want to address the offensive line with their first available pick. The million-dollar question is, do the 49ers address guard or tackle first? If I were to take a crack at this answer, I would suggest seeing who's higher on their big board. Since I don't have the 49ers big board in front of me, I'll offer some offensive linemen that may be available at pick 61. Let's keep in mind that the 49ers run a zone-blocking scheme, so these suggestions will fit that particular scheme.

My first choice is interior offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer out of Georgia. He's powerful, quick, and versatile. Though Salyer didn't participate in most of the events at the NFL Scouting Combine, he performed 31 reps in the bench press (second highest). In addition, he handled the best pass rusher in NCAA football, Michigan's Aidan Hutchison. I know he's more of a power fit, but the 49ers did draft Banks in the second round last season with the same skillset. Perhaps the 49ers are looking to switch the scheme up between power gap and outside zone.

The next is Dylan Parham, a guard out of Memphis. Parham is 6'3" and 311 lbs. He ran a 4.93 official time, with a 26.5" vertical jump, a broad jump of 108, a three-cone drill of 7.78, and a 20-yard shuttle of 4.7 seconds. Parham is explosive and gets to the second level quickly. Parham is also versatile. At Reese's Senior Bowl, he also lined up at the center position.

If the 49ers want to wait later to draft an offensive lineman, prospects Cole Strange out of Tennessee-Chattanooga and Alec Lindstrom out of Boston College would be perfect fits in the zone running scheme. Both players are more developmental, but they are equipped to start day one at the guard position for the 49ers. Both players should be available at pick 93 and can bring in excellent competition heading into OTAs and training.

Strange is one of the most intelligent linemen available and is mean in the run game. He sets a good anchor and doesn't get beat by power often. He ran a 5.03, benched 31 reps, a 10'0" broad jump (first place), a 7.4 three-cone drill, and a 4.5-second 20-yard shuttle. He's also versatile. Strange can lineup anywhere on the offensive line.

At some point, the 49ers must address the offensive line. When and where? Well, that's the question.

Who do you see playing on the 49ers offensive line in 2022, via free agency or the draft?
  • Written by:
    Wayne Breezie is a 49ers content creator. He had his first guest appearance on Ronbosports in 2012. He began writing for a Facebook group called the League of the 49ers. Next, he began writing for Nothing But Niners in 2017. In 2018, Wayne Breezie made his debut on YouTube’s Nothing But Niners show. In 2019, he started his podcast called Nitty Gritty Niners. After putting the pen down for several years, Breezie saw an opportunity to write for 49erscap.com. His first published article was in January of 2022 with 49ersCap, and he currently writes and produces weekly podcasts.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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