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Roster Projection: The 49ers’ 2019 Offensive Line

Bret Rumbeck
May 24, 2019 at 8:00 AM

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Organized Team Activities (OTAs) mark a significant shift on the professional football calendar. The draft feels like it was months ago, and teams have moved beyond over-hyping the 2019 schedule.

The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2019 season with five offensive linemen who played the bulk of the 2018 season together, building a bond and learning how to communicate in loud, raucous stadiums.

There's no point in the coaching staff creating artificial position battles; last year's first-team earned the right to come back and start this fall.

Here are my projections, including the back-up linemen.

First-Team Left Tackle: Joe Staley

At some point in the distant future, someone will write a comprehensive history of the 49ers and list left tackle Joe Staley in the top five draft picks in the organization's rich history. Staley's played 174 games for the 49ers, earning second-team All-Pro honors twice, and elected to six Pro Bowl rosters.

In 12 seasons, Staley's evolved into the clear team leader, with an infectiously positive attitude. As an added bonus, he's only been flagged for holding 14 times in his career.

Left tackle is Staley's position until he decides to become a Las Vegas variety act.

First-Team Right Tackle: Mike McGlinchey

Rookie tackle Mike McGlinchey had a few rough outings but proved to be a stellar addition to the 2018 roster. Over 1,055 snaps, he allowed 11 quarterback hits, 23 hurries, and a team-high 39 pressures. Plus, he played 32 snaps at right guard when both Mike Person and Joshua Garnett suffered injuries in Week 1.

McGlinchey was the second-best run-blocking tackle in the NFL, with a 78.2 grade from Pro Football Focus. Of note, his run-blocking grade was 18 points higher than former 49er tackle Trent Brown, who ranked 60th overall in run blocking.

McGlinchey is the future of the 49ers and a cornerstone for the offensive line.

Second-Team Tackle: Shon Coleman

General manager John Lynch made a late August trade last season, sending a 2019 seventh-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for tackle Shon Coleman. At the time, I thought it meant that former 49er Garry Gilliam was finally going to be shown the door.

Coleman joined the 49ers on August 31, 2018, and wasn't active for a single game last season. It was a bit strange, and I thought it was possible he had a nagging injury or didn't fully grasp the playbook.

No matter the reason, Coleman has had a full year to absorb the offense and rest. It's possible Coleman could be a starter once Staley retires, but for now, he'll be relegated to a back-up role.

Left guard Laken Tomlinson with a fantastic trap block in a Week 10 loss to the New York Giants.

First-Team Left Guard: Laken Tomlinson

The 49ers injured reserve list is often as long as the active roster, but there's one man who's been the team's iron man.

Laken Tomlinson has been with the 49ers for two seasons and played 2,070 snaps. He missed the opening game in 2017 and suffered an MCL injury during the Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Rams last season.

Fortunately, there were no complications from the injury, and Tomlinson has been playing left guard with ones during OTAs.

Tomlinson improved his pass blocking last season, allowing three fewer hits, five fewer hurries and eight fewer pressures than in 2017. However, he continues to struggle with run blocking. He's found a way to work in Kyle Shanahan's offense, and he's been able to remain healthy – and sometimes that's enough to be a starting player in the NFL.

First-Team Right Guard: Mike Person

The 49ers first significant offseason move was rewarding right guard Mike Person with a new $9 million contract, with $3 million guaranteed. Person played 1,000 snaps last year, allowing one sack and seven hurries. He earned a 67.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, ranking him 24th among active NFL guards.

Person has had an intriguing NFL career. The Montana State alum began his career with the 49ers in 2012, but he did not make the final roster. Since then, he played for five other teams before returning to the 49ers in May 2018.

An under-the-radar story is Shanahan's ability to work with two average guards and find successes in the ground game. It's a bit shocking, but the 49ers ground attack ranked 13th overall last season, despite losing starter Jerick McKinnon before the start of the regular season.

Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, Jeff Wilson, and Raheem Mostert tallied 1,769 yards on 364 attempts last year, more ground yardage than some NFL teams. That success was due in part to Tomlinson and Person, and to Shanahan for using plays that matched the skillsets of his guards.

First-Team Center: Weston Richburg

Weston Richburg was the big free agent signing for the 49ers in 2018, but he did not play to his potential due to a Week 4 knee injury. In January 2019, the 49ers announced Richburg was having surgery to repair the knee and damage done to his quadriceps.

The injury clearly limited his overall mobility, as he allowed four sacks, 23 hurries and 33 pressures, which were the worst numbers of Richburg's career. Further, his overall grade from Pro Football Focus was 20.8 points lower than his 2017 season.

Several reports noted that Richburg expects to be ready for the start of training camp, but for now, veteran guard Ben Garland has been at center with the first-team offense. (Per The Athletic)

Week 8 vs. Arizona - 3rd Quarter; Third and 10 at the SF 30 (7:48). The play was F-Bump to Double Right 24 Y Branch Nod.

Second-Team Interior: Ben Garland and Ross Reynolds; Good-Bye Joshua Garnett

For reasons unknown, the 49ers decided not to address the back-up guard position during this year's draft. I've come to grips with the fact that Shanahan simply doesn't see the need for expensive guards in his offense – not as starters or reserves.

Therefore, it made sense to learn the team signed Garland on April 23, 2019, and inked undrafted free agent Ross Reynolds to a contract shortly after the 2019 NFL Draft.

Garland has limited knowledge of Shanahan's system, playing 50 regular season snaps in 2016 while with the Atlanta Falcons. He has suited up for 46 games over the last three seasons, making seven starts and performing well in the run game.

Reynolds should be a unique experiment in Shanahan's ability to develop undrafted talent. He played in 31 games for the University of Iowa, making 14 starts in his last two years. I'd love to watch Reynolds develop this spring and summer, as I feel he'll end up beating veteran guard Joshua Garnett out for a spot on the second squad.

Garnett's overall play has been less than remarkable, and his ability to stay healthy is non-existent. The 49ers' offensive line needs the next man up to have the same hunger and ferociousness as the starters, and Garnett hasn't shown these traits. If Garnett can't get through these next months without showing severe improvement, I doubt Shanahan will see a reason to keep him. The team is much better off developing Reynolds over the next few seasons.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.
All images courtesy of
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
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.

1 Comment

  • gw2
    "If Garnett can't get through these next months without showing severe improvement, I doubt Shanahan will see a reason to keep him." Uhhhhhh...
    May 24, 2019 at 2:31 PM

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