After spending last season watching their quarterbacks crumble in the pocket under interior pressure, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan knew the needed to upgrade the offensive line.
San Francisco’s brain trust knew they had to improve the pass protection. The first boost came via free agency, as the 49ers added veteran Alex Mack on a two-year deal, bolstering the center spot.
That still left concerns at right guard, which at times felt like a swinging door with a different starter every week. So Lynch and Shanahan decided to invest multiple draft picks on sturdier, bulkier offensive linemen who can develop into future starters at guard and tackle.
Through multiple weeks of training camp, Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore have been disappointing, to say the least. The assumption was that Banks would become the Week 1 starter at right guard, but former AAF star Daniel Brunskill seems to have a stranglehold on the starting job. Moore was viewed as a developmental prospect but had been struggling early on and hasn’t positioned himself to be the swing tackle on the 53-man roster.
The growing pains were visible on Saturday as Moore and Banks made their preseason debuts. Moore gave up two pressures on 28 pass-blocking snaps, while Banks gave up four pressures on 18 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Banks will also be out the next three weeks with a shoulder injury — only hampering his rookie development.
Should 49ers’ fans start to panic over the struggles of the offensive line? Probably not.
Trent Williams — one of the best left tackles in the NFL — will be in the lineup, and the 49ers will have one of the savviest centers in Alex Mack on the field during Week 1. That should clear some of the concerns when it comes to the starting five upfront.
Beyond that? It’s a giant question mark.
Banks and Moore were drafted with the hopes that they could be plug-and-play linemen for this team at some point in 2021, but it doesn’t look too bright at this moment.
So how panicked should fans be with the play of their rookie offensive linemen?
On Aaron Banks: Panic Level: 7/10:
The expectation was that Banks would be a plug-and-play starter come Week 1, especially coming from an offensive line factory in Notre Dame, but he hasn’t shown any flashes of that yet in camp or Saturday. For a player drafted in the second round, the expectations are sky-high, and it’s been disappointing thus far.
On Jaylon Moore: Panic Level: 4/10:
Moore played better than Banks did, and he was always viewed more as a late-round bloomer than a Day 1 starter, but he was tasked with a tall order on Saturday when he was named the starting left tackle. It’ll be a good learning experience from Moore, but he needs to continue to develop to show why he deserves to be on this 53-man roster and add value for this football team.