Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


Preparing for Week 3: How the 49ers Can Help Rookie Justin Skule

Bret Rumbeck
Sep 21, 2019 at 8:00 AM0


The San Francisco 49ers left the Buckeye State with a top-three offense and top-ten defense, feeling ready to take on the cream of the National Football League.

Nearly everything was perfect until veteran tackle Joe Staley broke his fibula late in the Week 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. It's estimated he'll miss up to eight weeks of football.

As noted in previous commentaries, my desire for the 49ers is a top-tier offensive line with three men in reserve with the talent to fill-in for a starter if necessary.

The world does not often fulfill such a concrete fascination.

All week I wanted general manager John Lynch to make a move and sign a quality tackle to fill in for Staley. Lynch clearly felt differently and instead will rely upon sixth-round rookie Justin Skule to hold down the left tackle position.

The 49ers also brought veteran tackle Sam Young back onto the squad, most likely to back up Skule.

There is a meat-hook reality that many fans, including myself, often ignore: there are no top-tier left tackles on the market right now. The 49ers' starting rookie left tackle is the best they can do at this moment.

The idea of Skule protecting quarterback Jimmy Garopplo's blindside turns my blood to liquid helium, but head coach Kyle Shanahan can employ a few tricks to help his rookie tackle.

1st Quarter: 1st and 10 at the SF 49 (13:05)


A power-running attack is a strategy that never goes out of fashion. Even Shanahan, who's better known for his zone attack, has a few power runs in his arsenal.

I Left, Z Left, 17 Power was the first play Shanahan called against the Bengals, which resulted in a six-yard gain from running back Matt Breida.

A coach at any level of football can draw up a power run in a way that fits his scheme, but the core elements remain the same.

The tackle and tight end block down, a fullback smashes an edge defender, and a pulling guard swings through to clean up any pesky linebackers.

There are variations on the design, such as a one-back power run, not pulling a guard, or even targeting a different defender as the victim of the attack. No matter which variation of power Shanahan calls, I guarantee Skule's blocked a few thousand power runs in his career.

Shanahan's play-action off power runs are the P14/15 protections. The 49ers opened the 3rd quarter against Cincinnati using P14 Weak play-action, which gained 39-yards.

2nd Quarter: 2nd and 20 at the SF 15 (14:15)


The results of the above play were not in favor of the 49ers. Garoppolo misread the coverage and threw an interception.

So, ignore the turnover and instead look at 3/300 Jet protection.

Jet is six-man protection that slides four offensive linemen one direction, leaving a tackle and back to pick up the other side. 2/200 Jet slides four linemen to the weak side, while 3/300 Jet slides the line strong.

In all instances, the Y-receiver will be running a route.

The back reads inside-out on Jet protection, starting head up over the center and working his way to the edges. He could have responsibility for a Mike or Sam linebacker, an edge defender or even a blitzing strong safety.

If the back does not have any blitzing defender to stop, he can release into the play as Mostert did above. However, I would not be surprised if Shanahan directs his backs to stay in and assist Skule this Sunday.

2nd Quarter: 1st and 10 at the SF 44 (1:09)


Through two games, 49er running backs have amassed 117 yards receiving, or just under twenty-five percent of the team's total receiving yardage.

Receiving backs are a critical part of Shanahan's system, and will give his backs a free release throughout a game.

'Scat' looks similar to Jet, except the back has a no blocking responsibility. He heads immediately into the route without hesitation. The offensive line follows similar rules to 'Jet' protection.

We will see Skule one-on-one in pass protection on Sunday, and 'scat' leaves him without any help.

Skule's pass protection skill is mostly unknown. Indeed, he did not have an incredible preseason against men who are no longer on NFL teams.

He had one pass snap against Cincinnati, a quick screen to his side. Skule was unable to make a block on a defensive back Darius Phillips, who brought down Samuel for a short gain.

Other Ways to Help Skule


There are a variety of other ways Shanahan can call run plays and pass protections that can provide Skule and Garoppolo a little extra insurance.

A 'strong left' formation places tight end George Kittle next to Skule, with fullback Kyle Juszczyk aligned a few yards behind Skule's right hip.

Last week, Shanahan called a play from a 'Hug' formation, which puts the Z receiver roughly five yards from the tackle. Indeed, not every 49er receiver has the power to take on a defensive end or linebacker.

Shanahan could call a quick screen or a toss out of 'strong left' or 'Hug,' allowing Skule to work in space. I don't know how many battles Skule wins against linebackers Bud Dupree or TJ Watt.

Shanahan also uses two-tight end sets which he calls 'Tite.' It places two tight ends, the Y and the U, on the edge of the line of scrimmage.

If the 49ers can again establish an aggressive ground attack as they did against Cincinnati, Shanahan can then call movement or play-action to the right side of the field.

I'm disappointed to see Staley not suit up for this season's home opener for a few reasons. He's been the soul of the franchise through some dark periods and deserved to run between the flames and under the scalding Santa Clara sun on Sunday.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.
All images courtesy of NFL.com.
  • 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 views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers' Kyle Shanahan: I don't know any rookie who can unseat Jimmy Garoppolo at his best

By David Bonilla
Aug 2, 2021

Peter King of NBC Sports attended a practice last week and witnessed why San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance is creating some Bay Area buzz. "Oooooohhhhhhhhhh," was the sound coming from the rookie's new defensive teammates on the sideline after the quarterback connected with wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. "Translation: This kid might be the goods," King wrote. That's the hope in Santa Clara. The 49ers gave up a lot — including multiple future first-round picks — to acquire the young passer. The team can be patient in Lance's development, though. It has Jimmy Garoppolo too. Garoppolo will be the starter,



Fred Warner on 49ers rookie Trey Lance: 'I'm very excited about his growth'

By David Bonilla
Jul 24, 2021

The San Francisco 49ers can see the potential talent in their first-round pick, Trey Lance. It's what led the team to trade up to select the quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick. The rookie's teammates have praised the 21-year-old, who lacks a lot of collegiate experience heading into his first NFL season. Lance started 17 games for North Dakota State but faced lesser competition than some bigger programs and has played in just one game since January of 2020. Jimmy Garoppolo is the frontrunner to be the 49ers' Week 1 starter and could hold onto the job for all of 2021, assuming he can remain healthy. However, Lance is proving to be a hard worker, evident by the several workout videos posted during the team's "time off," and could prove to be a quick



Why analyst doubts 49ers QB Trey Lance's chances for Offensive Rookie of the Year

By David Bonilla
Jul 26, 2021

Right now, DraftKings has San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance tied with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris for the third-best odds (+800) to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors during the upcoming season. Only Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (+300) and Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (+750) own better odds. While NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein is high on the No. 3 overall pick, he isn't buying into the hype when it comes to the quarterback's chances to be named the NFL's best rookie. Any 49ers fans who have been listening to what the team has said this offseason will certainly



John Lynch 'hopeful' 49ers will sign rookie QB Trey Lance soon

By David Bonilla
Jul 27, 2021

Today, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch was asked about the contract situation with the team's No. 3 overall pick. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance remains the only unsigned player from the Niners' most recent draft class. "We're sure hopeful that he does (sign soon)," Lynch said. "Sometimes these things -- I just look at our history since we've been here. We've never had a holdout. It always seems to go down to the wire. It's important that he is here. "I think for any rookie, for every player, every rep counts, every meeting counts, but in particular at that position. So we're hopeful and expecting that Trey will be here and certainly know the importance of him being here." 49ers players reported to the team's facilities this morning for


Featured

More by Bret Rumbeck

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone