Another year, another reason the San Francisco 49ers are without guard Joshua Garnett for another stretch of time. This time, it’s a dislocated finger putting the guard out for three weeks. The injuries just keep coming. Many comparisons here can be made to 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward and his own durability issues, but Ward has cracked into the starting lineup on more than one occasion. Garnett has struggled to clinch a starting spot since the Chip Kelly days.
In 2017, a knee injury put him on injured reserve before his season even started. In 2018, he missed stretches of camp due to that same injury, something Kyle Shanahan admitted concern over. The moment he found some playing time in 2018, a broken thumb took him back to the sidelines.
And for 2019 it’s the dislocated finger.
The 49ers traded up to draft Garnett towards the end of the first round in the 2016 NFL Draft. While Garnett wasn’t an awful lineman, he has struggled as a full-time starter. The 49ers have re-signed Mike Person, who some may have thought would play behind Garnett in 2017. The opposite has ended up happening. The same for Laken Tomlinson who has locked down the other guard role. A lot can happen in training camp to the offensive line, but it’s hard to make an impression if you’re not playing. Three weeks is a long time, even longer in training camp.
Shanahan has praised Garnett in the offseason and said there was nothing Garnett could do after the finger kept dislocating, but durability is durability. Garnett has been unable to play and when he does, he’s usually used for depth. 2016, his rookie season, yielded him the most action with 768 snaps. 2018 he played in just 59 snaps.
The 49ers decided not to exercise Garnett’s fifth-year option back in May. This will make Garnett a free agent at 2019 season’s end. With Person and Laken Tomlinson holding onto both guard spots, Garnett may be on the outside looking in. He just can’t stay healthy. He could still carve out a role on the 49ers, but at this point do you see him walking at 2019 season’s end?