We’re past the midseason mark and still have some football left. It’s time to look at all the 49ers units and discuss what we like and don’t like out of them for 2018.
Any other year where the offensive line is brought up would probably lead to you all cringing. The San Francisco 49ers O-line was that bad. Sacks, pressures, there were enough holes in 2017 to make a swiss cheese green with envy. When Jimmy Garoppolo took over the reigns of the quarterback job, things improved thanks to his quick release (and possible leadership), but that didn’t erase the fact both Brian Hoyer and Jimmy Garoppolo spent more time on their back than we liked.
It was obvious the 49ers needed to improve the offensive line in the 2018 offseason. We all remember my groans of “O-line, O-line, O-line.” Things began with a contract extension to Daniel Kilgore. Not the reason for the O-line’s woes, but not anything world beating either. It was when the 49ers declined Laken Tomlinson’s fifth year option that we knew change was coming.
Well what happened was despite the contract, Kilgore was traded, Tomlinson got a whole new contract entirely and the 49ers went out and grabbed Weston Richburg—which prompted Kilgore’s trade in the first place. From there the 49ers drafted tackle Mike McGlinchey, shipped off Trent Brown to make room for McGlinchey and all that was left was a right guard position.
Ladies and gentlemen, the new 49ers offensive line. Even with a right guard spot that perhaps could be made better since Mike Person of all people is plugged in, the 49ers have been much, much better in 2018 than they have in the last three years. They have been climbing Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings, even making it to sixth overall at one point. The numbers took a dive against the Los Angeles Rams where the line allowed seven sacks, but if you watched that recent Monday Night game of the Rams against the Kansas City Chiefs, you’d know they do that to everyone.
A lot of the praise comes from the run blocking. The running backs are having a huge year despite Jerick McKinnon being out for the season and Matt Breida being questionable every other week. Sure the running backs are playing well, but there’s no way they’d get these holes in 2017. Carlos Hyde and Breida had to fight for every inch, sometimes getting tackled in the backfield just as the handoff occured (how the ball never got stripped out we may never know). The pass blocking hasn’t been awful, but satisfactory.
Despite all the praise, one thing is certain: The line isn’t one of the league’s best—yet. It has shown immense improvement from one season to the next and is (finally) headed in the right direction. McGlinchey has shown himself to be an absolute mauler of a pick, even at times outplaying earlier pick and former Notre Dame teammate Quinton Nelson. Staley has been reliable as always and Laken Tomlinson? Dude, what happened? Many were giving up on the guy. Weston Richburg has had his moments, but he hasn’t been a disaster.
That leaves the right guard. The line is showing huge improvement despite their issues. It’s always a new injury with Joshua Garnett and Mike Person has been decent at the spot. Perhaps a 2nd round pick (No, they need a pass rusher in the first round) is in order for that final guard spot and this line is solidified. They also will need to begin figuring out what to do with Joe Staley’s retirement looming in the next couple of years (regardless of if they move McGlinchey to left tackle or not, they will need someone to fill a hole).
Remember, last year, C.J. Beathard took sacks because his line couldn’t block. This year he took sacks because it seemed like he didn’t know what to do with the extra time they were buying him. Garoppolo too. Watch any sack for those two and you’ll see most of them are on the quarterback, the line bought them the time necessary to make a decision. It’s not there yet, but if there’s anything you can see a vision with, it’s that line. The rest of this season and 2019 are going to be something special.
What are your impressions of the offensive line at midseason?