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49ers OL coach Chris Foerster on RT Colton McKivitz: “The job is his coming into it”

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jun 1, 2023 at 3:20 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers had a significant change this offseason, letting go of several key starters, such as Mike McGlinchey and Jimmie Ward, who earned lucrative multi-year deals elsewhere.

That left the 49ers with a void at the right tackle position, where the team didn't add any significant talent in free agency or the NFL Draft, meaning that Colton McKivitz is the odds-on favorite to be the starter at the position.

Speaking to the media for the first time this offseason, offensive line coach Chris Foerster praised the swing tackle, pointing out his value in spot duty and that it's McKivitz's job to lose, which should help build his confidence in a crucial year.

"Colton, he's done a great job for us through the years he's been here," Foerster said. "He's always had to fill in short spells and has done a good job for us. I think that knowing the job is his coming into it and it's his job to lose kind of, although there will be guys that are there to compete if it doesn't work out. I think it is also going to help build his confidence. He is good for the position,"

As for the competition, Matt Pryor and Jaylon Moore are the two right tackles behind McKivitz, with the former struggling as a starter with the Indianapolis Colts last season, and the latter failing to take off as a tackle in the NFL thus far.

Pryor's contract is non-guaranteed, while Moore still projects better as a guard, which I stated when he got drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The biggest competition for a backup tackle seems to be Leroy Watson, who has been on the left side of the offensive line, and looks more developed within his frame after his rookie season on the practice squad, furthering McKivitz's spot on the team as the starting right tackle.

While Foerster conceded that McKivitz likely won't replicate McGlinchey's performance, the offensive line coach pointed out his consistent protection and mindset, sharing that the primary goal is now developing that consistency during the season on a week-to-week basis.

"Mike McGlinchey is one of the best run-blocking tackles in the NFL," Foerster said. "Whether I say it, PFF says it, whoever says it. Colton probably won't be quite that, but he is a very good run blocker and his protection is really solid and consistent. He's got a consistent personality. He's a really tough, hardworking guy. He's a great character guy. Kind of like last year when we talked about the interior three players, he's made of the right stuff. He's actually played more snaps than those interior three guys last year had played and so it's just about a matter of getting out and starting week in and week out and not feeling like you're a short-term guy that has to get it done for one week. This now is your job to kind of work with and play through, so I'm excited for his opportunity."

McKivitz will get an early challenge, as the 49ers and Raiders are hosting joint practices prior to their preseason matchup in August, where the right tackle will face off against elite edge rusher Maxx Crosby and top-ten pick Tyree Wilson.

"Once you get out there and things start going, you hope he hangs in there," Foerster said. "I already told him, I think we're going to camp against the Raiders. They drafted a really high rusher [Las Vegas Raiders DL Tyree Wilson] and they have a rusher that is pretty darn good too, 98 [Las Vegas Raiders DL Maxx Crosby]. It is going to be a challenge right out of the gate, just in training camp and the first preseason game, so he'll have a lot to go through this season, but we have a lot of confidence in the guy."

McKivitz's career has been an interesting case, as the right tackle was initially cut by the 49ers prior to the 2021 season, but ended up starting a crucial game in Week 18, holding over the left tackle position in a must-win game to reach the playoffs.

Foerster pointed out the cut, sharing that McKivitz took it as a wake-up call, which spearheaded his role on the team later in the season, leading to a roster spot in 2022 and a potential starting job in 2023.

"Oh yeah, no doubt about it. Colton's been through a lot here and the thing about him was we released him I think it was his second season after his second training camp," Foerster said. "And that was a wake up. If you talk to him about it, that would probably be his wake-up call in the NFL. Nobody claimed him and we brought him back on our practice squad. And to him, that was one of those things where he kind of thought, well, I was drafted. I'm going to be here. I'm going to get my opportunities and you come to realize that nothing's guaranteed and so we brought him back in a practice squad role and he was a different guy from that moment on. His jaw was set and we activated him later in the year and that kid, he's been all business, all work, all about being the best he can be. Last season during camp, and you nailed it, he was playing as well as he's ever played. Coming out of that Week 18 game a couple years ago against the Rams and then obviously into this season when he had to fill in."

McKivitz's role seems clear on the 2023 team, barring any unforeseen signing, as the 49ers feel confident in him to man that right tackle spot following McGlinchey's departure.

Additionally, San Francisco has proven to be capable of winning games with average play at right tackle, which is what they're looking for out of McKivitz. If the tackle can showcase some level of consistency, he'd be the cost-effective solution the team's looking for at the position in the short term.

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