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The San Francisco 49ers’ and Their No Good, Very Bad Offensive Line

Bret Rumbeck
Oct 4, 2020 at 10:04 PM


Fun fact: the San Francisco 49ers have three first-round draft picks starting on their offensive line.

On paper, at least, that should mean the team has enough talent to have a productive ground game and provide time for the quarterback to read a pass progression.

The 49ers' offensive line should be quicker than its opponents, beating them to the punch on each play.

Somehow, that's not the reality for this year's 49ers.

For three weeks, the 49ers' offensive line has played just well enough to escape a heavy criticism and scornful looks.

However, the truth began to emerge from the darkness last week against the New York Giants. The 49ers looked good, pounding a soulless franchise into the artificial turf, but the run game struggled, with the interior offensive line missing blocks and giving up sacks.

During Week 4, the Philadelphia Eagles showcased the 49ers' weakness on national television.

Maybe no defensive coordinators were paying attention tonight and don't know how to beat the 49ers by an aggressive onslaught of the A- and B-Gaps.

The five men up front brought nothing to the game and failed when the offense needed them to perform at their best.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey was chewed up at least twice on the last drive, driven far back into the pocket and causing two incomplete passes.

Left tackle Trent Williams had one of his worst games as a professional. He made too many mental errors, including a false start on the final drive's first play. Williams also allowed at least one sack to start the fourth quarter.

The interior positions are still getting outplayed. Right guard Daniel Brunskill gave up a sack on the 49ers' second to last possession of the game. Eagles' defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway skunked Brunskill inside and dropped quarterback C.J. Beathard for a 9-yard loss.

Fletcher Cox, the Eagles' best defensive lineman, was hardly on the field during the game, but the 49ers could still not halt the Eagles' pass rush.

Shanahan may not value high-end guards and tackles in his offense. Maybe he feels he can scheme around weaknesses, hoping the inside and outside zone run game can help a player with soft spots in run blocking.

At times, that theory works. Last season, the 49ers had the second-best run game in professional football. A zone scheme doesn't require mauling linemen, just men who can get to a spot faster than the opponent.

Even in all its spread out formations and run-pass options, modern football needs a functioning offensive line. An offensive coordinator still needs to call dropback passes and power runs from time to time.

As in years past, the 49ers did nothing in the offseason to improve the offensive line. Indeed, adding Williams was a great move, but after that, the team made no effort to upgrade its soft interior or sign any quality reserves.

Tackle Justin Skule is, at the very best, a one-game back-up tackle. Remember he was benched in the second quarter of the Week 12 game against the Green Bay Packers. He only played seven snaps at tackle for the remainder of the season.

The 49ers did sign veteran guard Tom Compton in the offseason, but he's been inactive and has no real business on an NFL roster. He's only played 73 snaps at tackle in Shanahan's offense, which is nowhere near a litmus test for "knowing the offense."

Rookie Colton McKivitz played tackle in college – he is not a guard. Moving a rookie tackle with no interior experience is not a solution; rather, that's reaching for an answer when there is none.

The only likely scenario is center Weston Richburg returning quickly and moving current center Ben Garland to right guard.

With no depth, Shanahan has no option to improve his offensive line, and the lack of offseason strategy to improve the line has come back to bite the team.

Championship football is not grounded in hope, but that's all Shanahan has right now with his offensive line.
  • 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.


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