The San Francisco 49ers rolled out their new-look offensive line on Saturday, and it was about what we expected from the first team. From left to right, the first team line consisted of Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin and Erik Pears. This was how the line looked in minicamp, and it seems to be the line they want for now.
Brandon Thomas lined up at second team right guard, in between Marcus Martin at center and Trenton Brown at right tackle. People have expressed concern about Thomas not being in the starting lineup at right guard. Thomas has a long-term future at guard, but the 49ers are taking their time in getting him in there. He sat out last season rehabbing his April 2014 ACL tear, but is fully cleared this year.
In the offseason workout program, Jim Tomsula talked about Thomas and mentioned that he had a little bit of a "hitch in his giddy-up" at that point. He was able to practice, but obviously was still completing his recovery from the ACL injury. He did not open training camp on the NFI list, and is in the thick of things at practice.
Given what we have heard about the offensive line depth chart thus far, it would not surprise me if Thomas is being groomed for a utility interior role in 2015, with eyes on the starting lineup in 2016. Daniel Kilgore will remain on the PUP list for most of training camp, and very well could stay on it heading into the regular season. The team seems comfortable with Looney at center and Martin at right guard.
I see Thomas's future depending in part on next offseason when Alex Boone likely departs in free agency. Boone is in the final year of his contract, and cannot be franchised per his re-structuring last August. Given Anthony Davis's retirement, I suppose odds might increase for Boone to return. But I just don't see it. The team gave sizable money to Davis and Staley, but they also got fairly reasonable deals for book-end tackles. I have a hunch Boone will not be inclined to offer a discount.
I have no problem with this in the business of football, but rather just view it as something to be considered as the team looks to the future. I see Thomas in a starting guard spot next year. Kilgore's future is a bit hazy for now, but even if he returns to 100 percent sooner rather than later, I still see Thomas working his way into the starting lineup next year.
All this is just to say, there is no need to go off the deep end with Thomas not being in the starting lineup quite yet. I would certainly love to see him force the situation, but I can live with the longer play.