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49ers G Chilo Rachal might start this Sunday

In yesterday's Golden Nuggets I posted a link to Maiocco's story about Chilo Rachal potentially starting for the 49ers this Sunday at right guard.  The info came from Mike Singletary's media conference, a transcript of which I received a little later in the afternoon.

It seems like Mike Singletary is a big fan of Rachal.  There is of course his discussion of the youngster in his media conferences, but he has also given Rachal more and more playing time each week.  He has taken some time from Tony Wragge and looked rather solid in his efforts.  In fact, Mike Sando was quick to point out how hard Rachal exerted himself in what was essentially garbage time.  Singletary has consistently pointed out that Rachal looks good in practice so I'd imagine he has been a hard worker (consider that an educated guess).  Furthermore, given Singletary's seemingly apparent point that player's earn starting time, this seems to be another good sign for Rachal.

When Rachal was drafted, there were some concerns because he left after his junior year more for family reasons than anything else.  As our friends at New Era Scouting indicated:

Rachal is one of the early entrants in this year’s class who should have stayed for his senior season. Family issues, however, forced him into the draft. While next year he would be a surefire first day pick, now he’s straddling the line between the late second and early third round. The right guard may not be ready to start for another year or two, but when he does he’ll be good. He is already a top pass protector is really good on pull and trap runs. If he can improve his drive blocking, he’ll be a consistent Pro Bowl-caliber player.

In their draft breakdown, ESPN said:

What he brings: The biggest knock on Rachal is his lack of athletic ability and has problems redirecting in pass protection. He struggles, at times, to reach blockers in the second level and athletically he has some limitations. However, he's quick off the ball, jars defenders with a strong punch and gets in position quickly. He also does a good job holding his ground against bull-rushers.
How he fits: It's obvious the 49ers feel they need to upgrade at guard with the loss of Larry Allen in the offseason. Rachal is a mauler who needs to be in a confined area due to his athletic limitations. However, he has the size and initial quickness to wall off and position while creating inside lanes. He should be able to come in and compete with David Baas at right guard.

Given injuries and the offensive line version of musical chairs, Baas moved over to left guard and Tony Wragge secured the right guard position.  Wragge is 29 and while somewhat talented, he seems like a guy who is better for depth.  He was a backup center for some time but had a solid enough preseason to secure the RG spot.

When Rachal was drafted I initially thought he would be like Cody Wallace and be more of a project.  When training camp arrived and Baas had the torn pec injury, that timetable slid up.  Of course Wragge is a Nolan guy and I wouldn't be surprised if that was one reason he won the job.  I don't know for sure how Rachal looked in training camp, but Wragge was deemed the clear winner at that point.

When Singletary became the head coach there was some discussion that more of the younger folks would get an extended look.  However, I think the Singletary philosophy of earning playing time is still in play.  Kentwan Balmer has seen plenty of time on special teams but not nearly as much on the defensive line.  I don't think it's a matter of Rachal being a favorite and Balmer not so.  I'd imagine it's more that Rachal simply has shown more in practice.

Either way, it is one more reason to be excited for this Sunday.  If Rachal can lock down a starting spot going into 2009, it's one less question mark going forward.  The offensive line has looked significantly better with Hill at the helm and infusing it with some youth could be a good thing going forward.