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49ers 90-in-90: How Mike McGlinchey can improve in 2021

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is right tackle Mike McGlinchey

Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers' right tackle Mike McGlinchey was often the butt of the joke during the 2020 season as McGlinchey seemingly allowed a sack at the worst possible time.

McGlinchey's eight sacks allowed were the most during his three-year career, though he did allow more per dropback in 2019. McGlinchey also had his highest blown-block percentage in 2020, which was 1.4% higher than when the 49ers made their Super Bowl run.

Acting as if sacks allowed or blown blocks are the only way to gauge how an offensive lineman performs isn’t fair to them. It’s what we as fans and the media use as there isn’t a great determining factor to judge a lineman unless you’re the coach giving them a plus or a minus after each play.

Per Sports Info Solutions, McGlinchey earned more “total points” than he did in the previous two seasons, which is their way of saying 2020 was McGlinchey’s best season yet. Despite playing in 332 more snaps, McGlinchey had two fewer penalties. McGlinchey remained a dominant run blocker, too.

Only 14 linemen in the NFL earned more total points for run blocking than McGlinchey did, per SIS. The hope is that without backup quarterbacks and receivers on the field, they don’t have to hold onto the ball longer, which, in turn, will help your offensive line.

Basic info

Age: 26 (birthday was January 12)

Experience: Three accrued seasons

Height: 6’8”

Weight: 312 pounds

Cap Status

The 49ers exercised McGlinchey’s fifth-year option, which means the right tackle’s base salary in 2022 will be $10.8 million. That would make him the fourth-highest right tackle in the NFL but only the 21st highest-paid offensive tackle in the league. McGlinchey’s cap number in 2021 is $6 million.

I’d guess that the team is a lot higher on McGlinchey and happier with his progress as a player, despite having the obvious hiccups in pass protection. I’m curious to see what happens if McGlinchey’s play plateaus. What do the 49ers do after the 2022 season? Has he been good enough to extend? Durability will play a critical factor.

Where he can improve in 2021

You're going to miss a couple of blocks throughout a game where there are 60 plays. That’s inevitable, and McGlinchey shouldn’t be condemned for those. Percentage-wise, anything hovering around 3% of blown blocks per game is digestible. The 49ers can win with those numbers.

In 2020 McGlinchey had nine games where he missed more than 3% of his blocks. To make matters worse, it wasn’t as if he was hovering around that 3% mark. Two games were above 7%, while three others were above 5%. McGlinchey’s whiffs come in bunches, and that’s the issue.

Some speculated that McGlinchey might need to lose some weight heading into the 2021 season. It’s not as if the 49ers didn’t know these issues were apparent coming into the NFL. An old friend once said, “players don’t change.”

Here is NFL.com’s scouting report on McGlinchey:

McGlinchey will need to add more strength and mass to his athletic frame in order to hold up against NFL power, but his technique and instincts are pro-ready. He could be a polarizing prospect based on inconsistencies from his tape, but he gets guys blocked at a much higher rate than he loses his rep. McGlinchey should become an early starter at either tackle position, but his ability to handle bull rushers and power at the point of attack will define the type of career he has.

The first and final lines stick out, as those are the type of rushes that McGlinchey struggles with. Sometimes, even an undersized defender will knock McGlinchey on his backside.

Why he might improve in 2020

PFF ranked McGlinchey as their No. 14 tackle:

“McGlinchey ranks this high only because of his elite performance in the run game. He underperformed in pass protection in 2020, as has been the case early in his NFL career. A tackle like him can get away with such flaws in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, though.

McGlinchey finished second to only teammate Trent Williams in run-blocking grade among tackles in 2020 (91.3). He finished in the top 10 in both positively and negatively graded run-block rate, something only three other tackles accomplished last year. At the same time, though, McGlinchey ranked fifth-to-last in true pass set grade.”

In a run-heavy offense, it’s only right to focus on McGlinchey’s run-blocking prowess. He executes some difficult blocks and moves a lot better than you might anticipate. The coaching staff should try to unlocked McGlinchey’s run-blocking aggression and have that overlap into his passing sets, where the right tackle doesn’t play as confident.

McGlinchey should improve, thanks to the players around him. Alex Mack and Aaron Banks will be upgrades on the offense. A healthy quarterback, running back, and a trio of receivers should also aid McGlinchey.

He’ll need to improve his play, too. McGlinchey is late to shoot his hands in pass protection, which allows pass rushers to get their hands on his chest and “steer” him from that point. There are times when McGlinchey oversets one way, and a more athletic defender can beat him to the spot going to the other direction as well.

Again, it goes back to confidence, consistency, and timing. I don’t think there’d be as much pushback against McGlinchey if a few of his sacks came during the middle of the second quarter as opposed to the end of the fourth quarter.

McGlinchey will have two years to prove that he’s trending in the right direction. If not, the Niners will be in the offensive tackle market come the end of the ‘22 season.