The San Francisco 49ers have struggled to find any consistency this season, and injuries have been a major culprit. Losing Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon sunk this ship before it really got going, but the team has dealt with an assortment of other injuries that have made it difficult to get on track.
One area where the 49ers have seen more continuity than anywhere else is the offensive line. They’ve dealt with some injuries, but have started the same group the entire season except for one position in one game. In Week 8, Erik Magnuson started at center in place of Weston Richburg, who was dealing with a knee injury. They’ve had players leave games with injuries, but for the most part, the line has been left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Laken Tomlinson, center Weston Richburg, right guard Mike Person, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Kyle Shanahan talked about the value of that when he spoke to the media on Wednesday.
“I know guys have been banged up for a few of them and stuff and they’ve played through a lot of stuff, but we’ve been pretty consistent with our five guys out there, even when changing backs and things like that. But, the continuity on our O-Line has been very good. Especially three of the guys who got to play a lot last year. I think Staley and [G] Laken [Tomlinson] were good last year. I think they’re much better this year. The guys we’ve added have gotten us a lot better and our backs have ran very well, too. I think that’s why we’ve run the ball so well and I think that’ll be huge for us going into next year.”
The 49ers will head into the offseason with four of the five positions signed through at least 2019. Person signed a one-year deal this past offseason, Staley is signed through 2019, Tomlinson is signed through 2021, McGlinchey is signed through 2021 (with a team option for 2022), and Richburg is signed through 2022.
Person has been a capable option this season, so the team might look to extend him. They could also invest more heavily in a veteran guard, or a day two draft pick at the position. Whatever the case, there will be significant carry-over from 2018 to 2019. With the return of Garoppolo and McKinnon and a potential infusion of other skill position talent, the 49ers offensive line could develop into a position of real strength in 2018. It is showing progress this year, but expectations could grow for next year.