49ers at Right Tackle: Question or Answer?

While the battle for who will be quarterback rages, the right tackle position has become something else entirely.  Assuming everyone is healthy, Joe Staley would be at left tackle and Jonas Jennings would be at right tackle.  Jennings is excused from the OTAs so health is not an issue yet.  However, in his absence, one time 49ers guard (for about 2 week) Chilo Rachal is getting a crack at right tackle for the first time since he was in high school.  Additionally, the 49ers signed Alan Reuber, a journeyman tackle who has bounced around the league.  While the Reuber signing may not make an impact once the regular season starts, it has gotten me thinking about this often forgotten position.

Jonas Jennings came to the 49ers amidst a decent amount of fanfare and a sizable contract.  He has subsequently proven to be talented and very injury prone.  When his 2008 option was picked up, the most interesting line was that he would be competing for a starting job and could still conceivably be cut.  He's dealt with what appears to be some important family matters and while we certainly feel for him, it's entirely possible Jennings is either gone or benched at some point soon.

This has opened the door for the guard we thought we drafted.  Chilo Rachal instead gets converted into a tackle and all of a sudden he's gone from competing with Dave Baas at right guard to competing with incumbent Jonas Jennings at tackle.  Throw in Damane Duckett and Alan Reuber and you've got a whole mess of bodies out there.  According to Nolan:

Head coach Mike Nolan said he was concerned about the overall unit. "We do need to add some depth there," he said. He figures he has "seven or eight" proven offensive linemen. "Last year, it was nine. Maybe that was a false sense of security."

The question becomes what will be the result at right tackle?  Considering the overall lack of depth, I think we can count that in the "Keep Jonas Jennings" column.  As I'm not all that knowledgeable about some of the nuances of the various offensive line positions, I turn to 49ers o-line coach George Warhop for guidance, followed by Rachal:

At tackle, Rachal has to learn to play "in space," that is, without being surrounded by teammates as he was at guard.

"One thing he's got going for him is he's extremely tough," Warhop said. "He's a very smart player." Rachal's new assignments "make sense to him. He just has to get sound technically."

Rachal said he played some tackle at USC in practice but not in a game. "It's not a big adjustment at all," he said. "After the first four plays (Monday), it pretty much came back to me."

Asked if the position switch was a nod to the fact Jennings has missed 27 games over his three years with the team, Warhop said, "I just think you can't have enough tackles, regardless of Jonas' history in terms of injuries."

I've thrown up a poll to see what people think about the future at right tackle.  The "Never" option basically means you think either Rachal is a bust or Rachal goes back to right guard and somebody else eventually replaces Jennings.  In reality this is probably a guess at best.  However, I think this is an interesting position battle to watch going forward.  While we want everyone to stay healthy, if Rachal played Lou Gehrig to Jennings' Wally Pipp, it might not be the worst thing in the world long term.

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