Positives for the 2018 49ers have been few and far between. They're 1-6, watching their division rival Rams steamroll and carry the type of momentum that could see them in the Super Bowl come February. Two of their highest-paid players are on IR in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon. Most of the defensive selections from the 2017 draft aren't flourishing for various reasons. And the team's once-promising first-time defensive coordinator has come under fire this season.

Frankly, the 49ers have been a difficult watch each week, especially when one of the brightest spots on this team has been the least noticeable due to the nature of his position.

But rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey, the No. 9 overall pick by the 49ers this year, has been a huge win for the organization. He's looked like a five-year vet, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him earn All-Rookie honors for his efforts in 2018. McGlinchey's been one of the major enablers of this offense, sealing off that right side and providing a clean pocket; and springing plays in the run game with his dominance at the line of scrimmage, ability to move in space and consistency getting a hat on linebackers and defensive backs.

He's had more ups than downs, and his one negative game came against Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

All in all, he's been everything he was billed to be and it was apparent from the get-go. In Week 2 against the visiting Lions, McGlinchey (#69) really showcased his abilities as an impact run-blocker. Early on, head coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up a run right behind the big rookie tackle to get things started on the right foot.



It's a great design and call, and McGlinchey executes it to perfection.

The line blocks down, and the three key blockers on the play side are McGlinchey, plus fullback Kyle Juszczyk (#44) and left guard Laken Tomlinson (#75), who both pull from the weak side. But it all starts with McGlinchey. If he doesn't win, Juszczyk and Tomlinson can't hit their blocks and the play dies at its inception. McGlinchey, displaying his physical dominance, locks onto the LDT, and stands him up right away. Tomlinson takes the end and Juszczyk fills in to spring running back Matt Breida, untouched.

This was another example of McGlinchey being physical and digging guys out of the trenches.



It's a simple dive, and it doesn't go for much gain, but watch McGlinchey take the left defensive tackle – who is the primary threat to stop the play for no gain – and get underneath his pads and dig him right out of the play. McGlinchey moves him aside, pancakes him to the ground and finishes strong by putting his body weight on him.

Later in the game, McGlinchey showed how his rare combination of size and athleticism can create big plays in the run game.



Running to his side again, the 6-foot-8, 315-pound McGlinchey swiftly – and with great coordination and timing – reaches the second level to engage linebacker Devon Kennard (#42), way before Breida even makes his cut upfield. Once the back scoots past the line of scrimmage, it's the blocks by McGlinchey and Juszczyk that funnel Breida to the open field and give him the daylight that make this long touchdown possible.

This was a very good game for his second-ever NFL start.

It's only fair to share that McGlinchey got beat once for a sack, but you have to account for that in a rookie OL, especially one playing a new position on the line. It's part of the growth process. This was also one of the only ones spotted after watching the first half of his season, not including the (asterisk) Week 7 game against the Rams.



In Week 4 against the Chargers, McGlinchey built on his promising rookie campaign and shut down one of the league's more productive pass-rushing defensive ends in Melvin Ingram (#54). Ingram, in case you're not familiar, has had double-digit sacks two of the past three seasons, and the "off year" in between he had 8.0. And without Pro Bowler Joey Bosa in the lineup, Los Angeles has relied more on Ingram.

McGlinchey, like a vet, took on their best pass rusher and set the tone right out of the gates.



In the first quarter, Ingram with fresh legs attacked the rookie's side. As soon as the two engage, McGlinchey gets his hands inside on Ingram's chest, turns him away from the QB, and pancakes him, giving quarterback C.J. Beathard all the time and comfort in the world to throw. It's a dominant snap against an above-average defender.

That wasn't the only time McGlinchey put Ingram in the dirt, either.





Both of these plays were good examples of McGlinchey's ability to not only bury his opponent, but recover when the DL/LB wins off the snap. On the first, Ingram got a solid jump; and on the second, the spin threw the tackle off balance. But both times McGlinchey instinctually recovered and took Ingram out of the play.

Ingram was having no luck, and later in the game, I kind of felt his frustration. This play shows a more unorthodox rush by the end in which Ingram tries to bull McGlinchey head on – he leaps into his body in an attempt to push him back by really any means necessary. But it doesn't work, and Ingram is neutralized again.



McGlinchey absorbs the bull, and you'll see he widens his base to anchor, bringing Ingram to a complete stop.

McGlinchey owned Ingram for an entire quarter – up until the moment he left with an injury to his knee. The very next series, the pass rusher, no doubt smelling blood in the water in the form of replacement Erik Magnuson (#62), motioned over to that side prior to the snap and easily handled the backup right tackle en route to a shared sack with Derwin James.



It just goes to show the value of McGlinchey. And this is what most fail to realize. Not watching the offensive line, what matchups are happening, who's winning them, and who's rotating in and what changes, the success of the rookie right tackle has gone overlooked. This is also compounded by the fact that they're losing.

Despite it being a really tough loss on prime time, Week 6 against the Packers yielded another solid showing from the rookie. Dealing with two tough strongside defenders in linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive lineman Mike Daniels, McGlinchey shined again, both in the run and passing game.

On this first play, Matthews (#52) rushed the quarterback from McGlinchey's outside shoulder. Pre-snap, the tackle had to know Matthews had the room and position to attack him inside, outside or head on.



McGlinchey read it quick and engaged. He fired out of his stance, showing good footwork; he squared up and got hands on Matthews to absorb the rush, taking away the bull and outside lane. Then by directing him inside, Matthews just sort of gets lost in the wash and is no longer a threat on the play. Beathard is able to get rid of the ball without having to worry about pressure from that side.

McGlinchey took Matthews out on another play that resulted in another deep completion for Beathard.



Matthews rushing from the same spot can't get through or around McGlinchey once engaged. The size/strength advantage clearly goes to the rookie, and he's got the technical polish to go with. The only heat on Beathard is coming from the backside after tight end George Kittle can't sustain his block. This is another great rep for the rookie tackle against a six-time Pro Bowler.

McGlinchey stood out in the run game, too, in short down-and-distances, going the length of the field, and on the goal.



Shanahan calls an outside toss to Raheem Mostert here, and McGlinchey pulling from the tackle spot again shows off his superior athleticism for a person of his size. He moves well to the perimeter and winds up taking out two Packers defensive backs outside the numbers to allow the running back to get to the second level and close to the first-down marker.

He did work in close range, too.



On this inside pitch to Breida, you'll see Green Bay's left end, Daniels (#76), reads it perfectly and has a great angle to the ball in what should've been a stop for no gain. While not in the best position, McGlinchey stays with Daniels and uses his own momentum to drive him across the formation and out of the play. With a little sidestep from Breida, an otherwise negative run goes for a short gain.

There was a similar example in the red zone.



First, this is a good run on the touchdown by Breida, as he spun off the block and into the end zone. But the main threat again to stop the run and prevent any lane from being there is McGlinchey's assignment, and he's driven out of his gap and out of position to make a play. McGlinchey engulfs the defender, gets low, churns his feet, and gradually plants him in the ground. And that excavating of the middle is what clears all the room for the running back to punch it in for six.

It's yet another example of the first-round investment at right tackle paying off. A lesser player there and San Francisco doesn't score.

It's true, the 49ers are what their record says they are. But as many have said, they've been in most of these games, and a big reason for that – which has gone largely under the radar – is the performance of McGlinchey. With him, they're still functional. And without him, things would be much, much worse.

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