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Did the 49ers make a mistake at right tackle this offseason?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 12, 2023 at 7:07 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers cruised to an easy 30-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting the season with a bang, with the offense and defense both dominating in the comfortable win.

However, there was an area that stood out in the wrong way: offensive line play on the right side, as Spencer Burford and Colton McKivitz both struggled in Week 1, with the latter facing a tough opponent in T.J. Watt, who had three sacks on the day.

Did the 49ers make a mistake in not looking to improve the position this offseason?

Head coach Kyle Shanahan shared his thoughts on the right tackle's performance in Week 1, pointing out Watt's dominance, while adding that he expects McKivitz to step up going forward as he settles into his new position.

"He had the toughest matchup on the field," Shanahan said on Monday. "There was definitely a number that [Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J.] Watt got him. There's a couple situations we could have helped him out better with some chips and stuff. He battled throughout it, but did good enough for us to win. It was a huge challenge going against that player."

While McKivitz has experience in prior games, those situations were very different, given the necessity of playing on short notice.

Shanahan noted the number of difficult situations that McKivitz has encountered throughout his career, pointing to that and the right tackle's resilience as reasoning for improved performance next week.

"[The prior experience helps] a lot, but he got that also two years ago when he had to hop in that Rams game at the very end on some short notice when [T] Trent [Williams] couldn't go," Shanahan said. "So he has been thrown in some tough positions, but Watt's as good as it gets on the edge and especially in a loud atmosphere, especially early in that game. But he kept battling and I think he'll do better next week."

McKivitz was the culprit of both forced fumbles created by T.J. Watt, of which quarterback Brock Purdy lost just one, but head coach Kyle Shanahan took some accountability away from the offensive line, pointing to the unexpected defensive coverage as the reason why his signal-caller held the ball for too long, allowing for the turnover to occur.

"We knew there would be some tough situations going in. A lot of that stuff you don't expect to hold up very long. Some of the sacks, especially the last one, the sack-fumble, we just got a different coverage than we were expecting," Shanahan said. "The coverage we were expecting at that time of the game, we get rid of the ball a lot quicker. They played a different coverage that kind of surprised us at that time of the game, which made [QB] Brock [Purdy] have to hold onto it too long and wasn't expecting to be able to hold onto it that long. And that's usually what happens. And I wish I didn't call that in that situation so we could've got rid of it quicker. But, even when it does happen, Brock's still got to protect the ball."

While it wasn't a great first week for McKivitz, it's too early to truly judge how impactful he'll be in 2023.

But, the 49ers will be looking back at their decisions at right tackle if the former swing tackle doesn't pan out as a starter this season, and the decision costs the team from achieving their goals.
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.


  • Ed
    Make your criticisms and ask your questions before the guy has a bad game? Low hanging fruit to say that after the game. And how do we know it was all his fault? 65/68 snaps he was really good. And Mark is right, no solution to the question. It still seems like football is not strong suit of yours....
    Sep 13, 2023 at 11:39 AM
  • Mark Croft
    So what was the conclusion? My journalism instructor in college told us that if we're going to ask a question in the title of an article, then we should give a definitive answer. If I'm in Lynch's position, then I'm looking to make a trade to shore up that right side. The 49ers could see Micah Parsons and Haasan Reddick twice, plus Miles Garrett once and Aaron Donald twice. With $42.2 million in cap space and a full set of picks, the 49ers have more than enough ammunition to trade for a proven player to shore up that right side. If Tampa Bay goes on a losing streak, Tristen Wirfs is a possible trade target. McKivitz could move back into guard whete he first played on the OL for the 49ers.
    Sep 13, 2023 at 10:19 AM
  • Fyldyl
    In hindsight, drafting a tackle in the 3rd round, instead of Cameron Latu, would likely have been wise.
    Sep 13, 2023 at 7:23 AM

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