The San Francisco 49ers coaches continue to tinker with the offensive line despite being at the season’s midpoint. Until this week the coaches inexplicably rotated the right guard spot between Jordan Devey and Andrew Tiller. Now they have made a move towards the right tackle spot. Enter Trenton Brown.
Brown showed promise this pre-season, amassing Pro Football Focus’ highest pass blocking grade amongst offensive tackles. As a tackle in the SEC, he was known as a run blocking specialist.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, Brown played just 9 snaps; one drive’s worth of action. Brown matched up primarily against Vic Beasley, the 8th overall picking this year’s draft. Beasley has been a little up and down this year, opening strong in his first two games, but fading a little as the season wore on.
Granted, this is a very, very small sample size for Brown. We can’t take these nine snaps as some kind of magical predictor of how Brown will or will not play moving forward. At this point, they are just a small glimpse at what Brown can do.
First - the good. There were a few times where Beasley tried to get to the edge on Brown and failed. On just his third snap of the game, Brown handles a little stunt between Beasley and Brooks Reed. Even if Blaine Gabbert doesn’t get the ball out quickly, Beasley is a non-factor.
In the run game, the 49ers returned to a power play they now use a change up to their zone blocking scheme. Brown’s assignment here is to double team Tyson Jackson (number 94) with McDonald, allowing Bruce Miller to get the kick out block, and leaving the linebacker to a pulling Alex Boone.
Yes, Brown does get tossed a little here, but he still managed to move Jackson off the line and away from where the run was designed to hit.
Now, the not so good. On the play Below Vic Beasley opens up Brown with the rush then cuts inside and manages to start collapsing the pocket. Notice Brown’s left foot - it’s in pretty much in line with his right, opening a path to the inside. Brown recovers decently, carrying Beasley across the pocket. Gabbert’s pocket presence (I really can’t believe I just wrote those words) really saves Brown and creates a positive gain despite the pressure.
What does proper technique look like? Look at left tackle Joe Staley. His foot placement does not allow the inside move and a solid punch redirects an oncoming O’Brien Schofield.
On an outside zone play, Brown tries to slide step out to Beasley for the combo block with McDonald. Brown simply can’t get there, gets over his feet, and Beasley splits the blocks.
Brown’s miscue is rendered moot as Paul Worrilow gets into the backfield untouched anyway. As if that weren’t enough, Erik Pears is called for the hold so the 49ers complete the trifecta of failure.
These four snaps were almost 50 percent of Brown’s plays, meaning the jury is still out on Brown’s larger future or potential growth. If Brown continues to see time against teams like the St. Louis Rams and Seahawks we’ll be able to see if Brown is more deserving of the starting right tackle spot.