The San Francisco 49ers signed Mike Person to a one-year contract worth $915,000 last month, and injuries provided him an early opportunity in the offseason workout program. Jonathan Cooper is rehabbing an MCL injury that required surgery in January. He will be ready for training camp, but his absence resulted in Person splitting first team guard work with Joshua Garnett.
Person seemed to be brought in to serve as a utility option, with experience at guard and center. However, he is coming off a strong pass blocking season, according to Pro Football Focus. Among centers (his primary position last year with 12 appearances and 4 starts), he had the third highest pass blocking efficiency rating last season. PBE measures an offensive lineman based on pressures allowed on a per-snap basis, with weighting towards sacks allowed. Person allowed three total pressures (three hurries) in 194 pass-blocking snaps with the Indianapolis Colts. He got his opportunity after Ryan Kelly suffered an injury.
On Wednesday, Kyle Shanahan was asked what he envisions with Mike Person, and specifically, “Is he a legitimate candidate to be in that guard competition or he is kind of a utility?” Shanahan had the following to say.
“We’ll see how camp plays out. We brought him in here because we want to add to our depth and our competition. We have lots of guys in and out. They’re not all healthy right now. Again, I don’t even know who went with the ones and twos yesterday. I’m sure it was mixed in both. If you play in our inside and you’re not a starting player, you’ve got to work all three of those spots. You only get so many up on game day. So, if you’re not a starting player, you need to play both positions at guard. You’ve got to be able to snap. We work a lot of different people for those situations because you have 16 O-Linemen, but usually you keep eight. How’s that going to play out? It’s not always, ‘Who are the eight best blockers?’ It’s ‘Who are the eight guys that can build a team to where you can use those five guys and get through a season no matter what injuries happen?’”
According to Matt Barrows, Person, “appears to be in the running for a starting spot.” It’s hard to tell what’s what from three open non-padded, non-contact practices, but the fact that he is getting a share of first team reps seems moderately notable. Shanahan emphasized that he doesn’t pay much attention to the depth chart during OTAs and minicamp, but that won’t stop us from overreacting to it!
But I also think Shanahan’s comments about having versatility if you’re not a starter is worth noting. It doesn’t mean Person won’t be a starter, but his experience at guard and center brings some essential versatility. If he’s not a lock to make the roster, he’s pretty close, but where he stands in the guard depth chart will be something to track later this summer.
The 49ers return for training camp in late July, at which point the depth chart will start to come into focus. The 49ers will have have two weeks of practice before their first preseason game. It’s safe to say we’ll get a handle on where Person is compared to Garnett, Cooper, Garnett, and Laken Tomlinson.