One of the notable moves the San Francisco 49ers made this offseason was to acquire center Jeremy Zuttah from the Baltimore Ravens in a swap of sixth round picks. Daniel Kilgore was the incumbent starter, but it appeared that Zuttah was going to push him quickly for that starting role.
However, through two weeks of training camp, Zuttah is struggling to move up the depth chart. He is working primarily with the second team, and according to Matt Maiocco, he has not been getting much work at guard. Maiocco described Kilgore as “far-and-away the team’s best [interior lineman].” He said Kilgore’s, “athleticism, strength and grasp of the new blocking scheme” have solidified his role on the offensive line.
If Zuttah is not going to win the center job, he likely needs to be able to play more than just center, and it sounds like he is not showing that versatility. Just as important is the fact that Tim Barnes is offering that kind of versatility.
The 49ers signed Barnes at the beginning of May, and my thought was that he would compete as the third center and probably get cut by the end of camp. However, he has been getting work at guard with the second team, and Matt Barrows is reporting that Barnes has gotten some second team center reps as well.
Are we suddenly looking at a situation where Barnes leap-frogs Zuttah to claim a roster spot? Zane Beadles is the only other player on the depth chart who has shown any significant center ability, having briefly filled in their for the 49ers last season. Given Joshua Garnett’s knee injury moving Beadles back into the lineup at guard, the 49ers are likely to keep a second center. Barnes might be moving his way into that role. And If that happens, Zuttah seems like a strong cut candidate.