The San Francisco 49ers will hold media availability on Tuesday during day two of OTAs, and head coach Kyle Shanahan will speak at approximately 2 p.m. PT. I don’t expect a ton of revelations, but we might start to get an idea about the team’s practice depth chart.
One area where there will be a ton of competition is along the offensive line. Joe Staley is likely safe at left tackle, but I would not be surprised if nobody else is a lock for anything. The team acquired Jeremy Zuttah via trade, and signed Garry Gilliam, Tim Barnes, and Brandon Fusco. They return Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore, Joshua Garnett, Trenton Brown, John Theus, and Norman Price, and have a host of UDFAs on the roster.
The team’s offensive line last season went from left to right, Staley, Beadles, Kilgore, Garnett, and Brown. Andrew Tiller worked his way into the mix as well, along with John Theus to a lesser extent, as the team had to shuffle things around due to various injuries.
This year, there are a whole host of possible combinations. The team spent a first round pick last year on Joshua Garnett, but with a new head coach and GM, that does not guarantee anything. Garnett is still owed $2.1 million in fully guaranteed base salary the next two years, but given the team’s cap space, that’s not exactly a crippling amount of money. Garnett played right guard last year after spending his college career on the left side. We don’t know yet where he will situate heading into training camp.
It’s hard to make any predictions about how this will all shake out. I would not be surprised to see Zuttah starting at center Week 1, but Kilgore when healthy can be a solid option. But maybe Kilgore ends up at guard? Or go we see one of Tim Barnes or Brandon Fusco get in there? And of course, the status of Zane Beadles is not entirely clear.
On the right end, Trenton Brown is a big man, but potentially too much of a power option for what Shanahan will want to do? Garry Gilliam is not exactly a high quality offensive tackle, but if the 49ers think he can do a bit more in Shanahan’s blocking scheme, he very well could supplant Brown. And of course, Theus is in the mix as well.
All of this is to say, there are more questions than answers right now. The past three years worth of injuries have shown how important depth is for the unit. If you look back at Kyle Shanahan’s season in Cleveland and two seasons in Atlanta, having Alex Mack has been a critical part of building the offenses. The 49ers don’t have a clear Alex Mack type center, but maybe Shanahan thinks Zuttah can be that guy for him. OTAs will get us moving toward some semblance of answers.