The San Francisco 49ers placed Daniel Kilgore on injured reserve on Wednesday, and that means they will likely spend the final three games with Marcus Martin starting at center. Martin has started in the past when Kilgore was injured back in 2014 and into 2015. He struggled at times, and it is hard to get overly excited about Martin finishing out the season as the team’s starting center.
The 49ers filled Kilgore’s roster spot by promoting Alex Balducci from the practice squad. Balducci signed with the team as an undrafted free agent this past May. He played defensive line at Oregon, working with both DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. However, upon joining the 49ers, he was converted over to the offensive line, primarily the center position. He had played both offensive and defensive line in high school, but became a full-time defensive lineman at Oregon.
Back in June, Chip Kelly, Joe Staley, Joshua Garnett, and DeForest Buckner all complimented Balducci’s conversion to offensive line. On Wednesday, head coach Chip Kelly was asked what he has seen from Balducci in the six months since his last comments.
“I think he’s really working very hard at the transition. He obviously has the athletic ability, was a defensive lineman in college. He’s a guy that you’ve seen him grow incrementally from the time we got him in April right after the draft through training camp, was a guy that we said we really want to try and continue to develop. It was important for us to keep him around. So, we had the opportunity to do that. I think you see him get better and better. He’s playing multiple positions. He’s playing center, he’s playing guard, which all your backups have to do just because of the versatility that we ask them to do because you don’t have just one guy. So, if we’re going with the twos and [C] Marcus [Martin] is playing center in that group with the twos when Kilgore was up, then Balducci would get reps at guard and then we just kind of flipped and flopped them around. So, we’ve seen improvement from him. I think getting him up to the active was kind of a byproduct of just losing Danny. We’re down a couple guys. We’re going to have to dress seven on game day. We’ve got eight or nine right now, but not sure what [T] Joe’s [Staley] situation is and not sure exactly what will happen with the new guy we just brought in and Alex. But, I think he’s got a pretty good knowledge of what we’re trying to accomplish and I think the one thing about him is you continue to see him improve on a daily basis.”
It remains to be seen if we’ll get a chance to see something from Balducci as long as Martin remains healthy. Martin is wrapping up the third year of his rookie contract. The 49ers can extend him beginning this offseason, but I think most of us would be shocked if that happened at this point. I suppose the team might think there is still something to learn about him, but at some point it would be nice to see Balducci get some run against first stringers.