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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers need to monitor the right tackle position closely throughout the preseason

Aug 13, 2023 at 1:05 PM--

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With 49ers football officially back, one position to watch throughout the preseason is the right tackle spot. The San Francisco 49ers elected not to address the right side of their offensive line throughout the off-season and NFL draft, hoping Colton McKivitz would reach out and seize the opportunity. McKivitz, 27, will have a tall task this season as the favorite to start opposite the future Hall Of Famer Trent Williams, and 49ers fans hope he can, at the very least, emulate the production left behind by Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey, a free agent this past off-season, signed a massive five-year deal with the Denver Broncos worth a whopping $87.5 million.

The 49ers square off with the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon for their first preseason game of 2023 after a week of joint practices. Just a couple of days ago, it was reported that McKivitz struggled mightily going head-to-head with Maxx Crosby. Crosby, 25, is a ferocious defensive end that is equally as effective defending the run as a pass rusher. Pro Football Focus (PFF) should never be considered as the end all be all when constructing an overall opinion on a player. Still, it gives us a reasonably good estimate of how impactful players are throughout the season. Last year, Crosby earned a phenomenal overall grade of 90.1, including a pass rush mark of 83.5 and an 82.5 grade defending the run. So, to see a first-time (hopeful) starter like McKivitz struggle to contain a player like that in practice isn't out of the ordinary, but the hope is he will develop into a capable option on the right side.

Colton McKivitz was a fifth-round selection of the 49ers in the 2020 NFL Draft. He saw 301 offensive snaps as a rookie but not much since, and now he's expected to anchor the right side.

Former NFL quarterback turned analyst Chris Simms recently mentioned that he wants to see how McKivitz performs throughout the preseason.

"You got a guy in Colton McKivitz, who's, you know, penciled in to be the starter," said Simms on the Chris Simms Unbottoned Podcast "I want to see what he looks like in action here."

49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster said earlier this off-season that McKivitz has always performed well when he's been asked to spell someone, and he expects that knowing it's his job to lose throughout the preseason should help build his confidence.

"He's done a great job for us through the years he's been here. He's always had to fill in in short, short spells and has done a good job for us," 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster said earlier this off-season. "I think that knowing the job is his coming into it, and it's his job to lose kind of — all of the B guys are there to compete if it doesn't work out —, I think is also going to help build his confidence."

Last season, McKivitz totaled 68 offensive snaps for the 49ers; 43 came at left tackle, filling in for Williams, and 23 came at right tackle. The other two were as an in-line tight end in San Francisco's jumbo package. In limited duty, McKivitz earned an overall rating of 69.3. He garnered an impressive 85.9 pass-blocking grade in those limited opportunities but struggled as a run blocker, only earning a measly 57.2 mark, according to PFF.

It remains unclear if McKivitz will get an opportunity to face the likes of Crosby or Chandler Jones on Sunday afternoon, but I assume he will get some reps. If Crosby and Jones are held out of the contest, seeing McKivitz perform against the Raiders' core of depth, rushers will be something to focus on. He should have no issues on the right side against backup rushers, but if he does, it will be a position the 49ers staff will need to key in on and perhaps look to upgrade before the start of the regular season. The tackles currently next in line for the 49ers are Jaylon Moore, Leroy Watson, and Matt Pryor.

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