The San Francisco 49ers roster was kind of a mess in 2016, with injuries and ineffectiveness leading to the 2-14 season. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have both said they think this is more than a 2-14 team, but until the 49ers get back on the football field, they are what their record says.
On Thursday, Lynch was asked what parts of the team stood out as stronger than others. Specifically, someone asked him, “is there an area that you see as a strength and maybe needs a little less immediate work on the current roster or position group?”
Lynch said the offensive line and defensive line offer some reasons for excitement. He said “there’s a lot of exciting things to see with the offensive line.” He also said the defensive line is not polished and honed, but has great potential.
“Yeah. I think one of the encouraging things, I think offensive lines are tough to build in this league and you turn on the film and there’s a lot of exciting things to see with an offensive line. Defensive line, I don’t think it’s as polished and honed, but there’s a lot of great potential there. And so, it’s our job to draw that out of them. We added another piece with [DT] Earl Mitchell there. And so, I’m excited about that. I’m a firm believer, even though I played in the backend and we’ve talked about quarterbacks, a lot of football to me it’s won and lost up front. And so, that makes me feel good that we feel pretty good about that. We need to get better, but I think we’re further along than a lot of teams are in this league at those two position groups.”
The 49ers built up front during the Harbaugh years, and three or four seasons prior that helped set those teams up for success. The 49ers added defensive line depth the last two seasons in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, and some offensive line help in Joshua Garnett. It was not a great rookie season for Garnett, but he got plenty of experience. Trent Brown emerged as a strong option at right tackle.
The 49ers still need to figure out left guard and depth on both lines, but this could preclude particularly heavy further investment in the trenches in free agency or the draft. Of course, the 49ers need to add whatever talent they can find, so if the right player is there at the right price, you gotta do what you gotta do.