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49ers offensive line: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

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A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2015 roster.

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2016, and it will take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was fairly quiet in free agency, but did plenty of work in the 2016 NFL Draft. Additionally, they will welcome back some injured players, and look to further develop young talent from the past few drafts.

With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.

We started with the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, and today we move on to the offensive line.

Current 2015 preseason 2015 - Week 1 2015 - Week 17
Joe Staley Joe Staley Joe Staley Joe Staley
Zane Beadles Alex Boone Alex Boone Andrew Tiller
Daniel Kilgore Marcus Martin Marcus Martin Daniel Kilgore
Joshua Garnett Andrew Tiller Jordan Devey Marcus Martin
Erik Pears Erik Pears Erik Pears Erik Pears
Trent Brown Trenton Brown Trent Brown Trent Brown
Brandon Thomas Joe Looney Ian Silberman Jordan Devey
Marcus Martin Brandon Thomas Nick Easton Ian Silberman
Andrew Tiller Ian Silberman Brandon Thomas Brandon Thomas
Fahn Cooper Patrick Miller Andrew Tiller (PS) Donald Hawkins (PS)
John Theus Justin Renfrow Tanner Hawkinson (PS) Alex Boone (IR)
Colin Kelly Sean Hooey Daniel Kilgore (PUP)
Ian Silberman Dillon Farrell
Alex Balducci Daniel Kilgore (PUP)
Norman Price
Blake Muir

The biggest changes are the departure of guard Alex Boone, and the addition of free agent guard Zane Beadles, and first round pick guard Joshua Garnett. After last season’s dumpster fire, it is not surprise the team made some changes. Andrew Tiller emerged at guard, but the change to Chip Kelly’s offensive philosophy will be interesting to track with players who got significant playing time last year.

Erik Pears and Trent Brown are competing for the right tackle role, with John Theus and Fahn Cooper potentially competing there as well. We can say with relative certainty that Joe Staley and Daniel Kilgore will return at left tackle and center, respectively. We also know that Zane Beadles and Joshua Garnett are the players we should expect to be starting at the two guard positions. That leaves it down to right tackle, and the various reserves. The 49ers had few offensive line injuries during the highs of the Harbaugh years, but when the team has struggled, offensive line injuries and ineffectiveness have played key roles. Having significant options on the bench will be critical.

I think the unit as a whole is improved, primarily due to the investment in Beadles and Garnett. It is a bit more about potential than previous expectations, but the talent infusion should be a big help.