Every week is a learning experience for rookies, and San Francisco 49ers first round pick Mike McGlinchey has had plenty of learning experiences this season. The 49ers started him at right tackle from day one, and he has gotten a chance to take his lumps and put together some successes week in and week out.
This past Sunday, he faced off against the Chicago Bears, and got extensive work against all-world edge rusher Khalil Mack. The Bears use Mack on both sides of the field, and he actually got more work going against Joe Staley than he did going against McGlinchey. Mack did not get any sacks — Roquan Smith had the Bears only sack — but he got plenty of pressure on Mullens. Mack finished the game with eight pressures, including three hits and five hurries.
McGlinchey had a rough day overall, with Pro Football Focus dinging him for a season-high four quarterback hits to go along with two hurries. They graded him poorly in pass protection (44.3), and not much better in run blocking (55.2). Mullens was able to make some plays along the way, but the offensive line did not do him a ton of favors in this one.
On Wednesday afternoon, McGlinchey made an appearance on KNBR to discuss the Bears game and how the season has gone as a whole. Although he had a rough day against Mack & Co., he was excited about the opportunity to face the best of the best.
“It’s pretty awesome, to be honest with you. I think it’s really cool, it’s a really cool challenge. It’s why I play football — to go up against the best of the best in the world. I wanna be one of the best, and so I have to beat the best, and that’s just the way it is. It’s a fun opportunity to go up against those guys. They got the best of us on Sunday, but I think there’s a lot of positives to take away from that game for sure.”
McGlinchey has had his share of struggles, but he’s been a very solid run blocker, and has been able to string together positive performances over multiple weeks. We hear regularly about how the speed of the NFL game can mess with rookies. McGlinchey offered an alternate take on why the mental aspects are what really make for the biggest hurdle.
“I think so. I think most of it’s mental. I think a lot of it — everybody talks about the speed of the game — obviously guys are just a little bit faster, but that’s not the biggest adjustment. The biggest adjustment is being able to be on task at all times and be a pro. The reason it’s faster is because guys know their jobs inside and out and they can just play. And that’s where it’s different from college, is that college to some guys, it’s a hobby. In the NFL, it’s your livelihood. Guys take it just a little bit more seriously, and I think the mental aspect is where the greatest challenges come in and making the transition from college to the pros.”
McGlinchey has one more game to close out the season on a high note. The 49ers travel to face the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. They invested heavily in their defense, but it has been fairly middle of the road outside of Aaron Donald. They rank eighth against the pass but 29th against the run. Meanwhile, their pass rush ranks 17th in adjusted sack rate.
The team focuses their pass rush primarily with their front four. Donald and Ndamukong Suh are the beasts in the middle, with Dante Fowler and Michael Brockers on the edge. They mix in Samson Ebukam as well, but Donald, Suh, Fowler, and Brockers are their big four pass rushers. This will make for an interesting challenge as the Rams likely push up the middle rather than come around the edge. The 49ers offensive line will need to show cohesion in handing off players between the tackles, guards, and center. It’s been hit or miss at times, and given what Donald in particular can do, this will be critical on Sunday.