With injuries comes inexperience. With inexperience comes mental mistakes that your starters don’t make. The 49ers 2020 season was full of inexperience and, unfortunately, at some of the most critical positions.
In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, the center is responsible for setting the protections and making the line calls. So when you have a player who isn’t used to making these calls or has the experience to know what the defense in front of him is doing, you end up with free runners.
Daniel Brunskill wasn’t a bad player. Considering he was in the AAF just a few years ago, the 49ers were fortunate that Brunskill was as competent as he showed on the field. Still, his biggest downfall was handling stunts and letting someone get a free run at the quarterback.
Enter, Alex Mack. There isn’t a stunt or a looper that Mack hasn’t seen. He solves the 49ers pass protection issues and gives them a center who missed a game last year for the first time since 2015. He just so happens to be an ideal scheme fit, too.
Age: 35 (birthday is November 19)
Experience: 12 accrued seasons
Weight: 311 pounds
Mack signed a three-year deal worth $14.85 million. In addition, he has $5.6 million in guarantees. As a result, Mack’s cap hit for 2021 is only $2.9 million.
His cap number more than doubles to $6.7 million next season. So if the 49ers aren’t satisfied with Mack’s play, they can release him before June 1 next offseason and save about $2 million in cap space.
How he improves the 49ers OL
There’s a domino effect with Mack. When you don’t have to help certain players, you can send that help to other players. In Mack’s case, he’s the helper, which couldn’t serve rookie Aaron Banks any better.
Laken Tomlinson will no longer have to worry about aiding Brunskill, so I expect to see his game return to the Pro Bowl-caliber player he is.
Mack’s a pretty good player in his own right. He allowed one sack last season, and it feels like he saved a few just watching Atlanta. There won’t be any confusion as to who to block in both the running or passing game.
So, you have Trent Williams on an island on the left side, with Mack in the middle looking to help whoever needs it. With Weston Richburg, the 49ers would set their protection to where Mike Person or Daniel Brunskill would be free to help. I could see that being the case with Mack.
The 49ers will be much improved this year, and a big part of that will be thanks to the investments they made along the offensive line. Mack will be pivotal to the team’s success on offense.