The 49ers rushing attack has been consistently inconsistent so far this preseason. I did a piece on Joe Williams a few days ago, and often in his clips offensive lineman were simply getting tossed around. Joshua Garnett, a former first round pick, however hadn’t gotten a shot on the field until preseason Week 2 vs. the Texans. On Saturday, he played 35 snaps. I checked out every snap and overall it was a solid showing.
With all the preseason chatter, Garnett was being cast as another Baalke bust set to hit the scrap heap. Throw in the recent injury on his surgically repaired knee, and most of us didn’t see him making the 53. As I watched the game, I was following along on Twitter, and most of the film guys I follow expressed nothing but positives. This made me anxious to get a look at his performance. What I saw was a smart player who knew his assignments. Garnett never looked lost, he often was successful in his reach blocks, getting to the second level and did an even better job when it came to line stunts and gains by passing off defenders.
Where Garnett needs to improve is in his ability to squat and anchor in pass protection. He’s susceptible to bull rushes and was overpowered, at times, by the Texans. He did hold his ground on a few plays but for the most part Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release saved the day. Once C.J. Beathard came in the game, things were different. Another solid showing next week versus the Colts, and I could see Garnett starting at guard. He’s more athletic than Mike Person, and does a better job in the run game. Let’s get to the clips.
In our first clip, we have a zone run to the right. Garnett shows good technique on the reach block, he gets a hold of the defender which allows Mike McGlinchey to get to the second level. Also look at Garnett finish the block. The problems on this play are the opposite guard Laken Tomlinson and Garrett Celek. Tomlinson doesn’t get in front of his defender like Garnett, which causes the center Weston Richburg to have to cover for him. This prevents Richburg from getting to the linebacker who makes the play. Celek is simply manhandled on the edge keeping the run inside.
Next clip is the same play basically, but this time it’s going in the opposite direction. Unlike Tomlinson in the previous play Garnett is successful in his reach block, he gets to the front side of the defender and holds him at bay with one arm while still moving down the line. I love the way he finishes on this block as well. Joe Staley took one step to the inside, and then couldn’t get back to the outside of his defender otherwise this play is for sure a first down and maybe more.
Our next clip shows a text book guard-tackle handoff when the defensive line performs a stunt. This clip is great because on Garnett’s side they pick it up perfectly, but on the other side, not so much. As the play begins the outside rusher runs up the field instead of towards the offensive tackle Darrell Williams. He notices something’s not quite right, he snaps his head inside to see what Garnett’s guy is doing, and it’s a good thing he does because he’s coming right at him. So Williams engages the oncoming defender. Garnett doesn’t follow his original defender, he stays home and catches the looping edge rusher as he tries to come inside on the stunt. Run the play back and watch the other guard and tackle totally flub up the hand off, both lineman follow one defender. This gets CJ lit up as soon as he releases by the free rusher.
Let’s look at some of Garnett’s struggles in pass protection. I’m not an offensive line guru, I played corner in high school, but I’m pretty sure crossing your feet as a linemen is a bad thing. It also just looks like in pass protection Garnett doesn’t really attack the oncoming defender. He sort of stands upright, and tries to “catch” the defender with his body. He’s too high and plays with no leverage or lean, in pass pro. So once a defender gets up on him, he’s easy to shed and push around. If you’re some sort of an offensive line specialist I’d love to read your insight in the comments.
In this next clip all of those items come into play. It doesn’t hurt the team in this instance as Jimmy G gets rid of the ball, but for the purpose of this piece, it’s important. This is one of the few end zone angles I got from the television broadcast.
The next two clips further show Garnett’s weakness when it comes to bull rushes. He’s pushed all the way back into Beathard’s lap on both plays. On one play it doesn’t affect the outcome, on the second clip it affected the accuracy some.
Ending on a positive, watch this defender try to put a spin move on Garnett and get totally pancaked on the play. Since the defender wasn’t bull rushing at Garnett, he’s able to simply push the tumbling defender over and fall on top of him. I’m sure this is every lineman’s dream.
I think between the four, Erik Magnuson, Jonathan Cooper, Mike Person, and Joshua Garnett, I’m still somewhat undecided. Person was solid, but he’s 30 years old and has bounced around the league for a reason. The same can be said for Cooper who’s been injured a lot. Magnuson never really shows anything to me, but Kyle and Co must see something in him to keep putting him out there. He’s now injured with a torn hamstring and likely headed to injured reserve to start the season. This leaves Garnett with a great opportunity to really solidify his place on the line. Let’s see if he can take his game to the next level versus Indianapolis. Go Niners!