The 49ers’ offensive line was under heavy scrutiny last season. Outside of Trent Williams and Laken Tomlinson on the left side, every other position presented a giant question mark.
Center and right guard were revolving doors last season due to injuries, and Mike McGlinchey wasn’t playing up to his standards at right tackle.
If Kyle Shanahan’s offense was ever going to take the next step, it had to start upfront with the offensive line. John Lynch addressed it early during free agency, re-signing left tackle Trent Williams while adding veteran center Alex Mack as well. In addition, the 49ers’ front office emphasized McGlinchey’s weight plan and played Dan Brunskill exclusively at right guard.
The result of those offseason improvements? Zero sacks and six pressures allowed through two weeks, per Pro Football Focus.
Former Falcons’ center Alex Mack has been at the forefront of the massive offensive line improvement, turning in two clean sheets in his first two games with the 49ers. No pressure, no hurries, no quarterback hits or sacks allowed in 125 snaps.
Through two games, the 49ers are fourth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate at 3.8 percent. At the end of 2020, San Francisco was ranked ninth in the same statistic, with an adjusted sack rate of 5.5 percent.
Keeping quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo upright has been a point of emphasis this offseason, and through the first two games, it’s been a successful mission.
On the run-blocking end, Trent Williams has been holding the fort down, leading the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking grade and offensive grade. He’s been phenomenal in these first two games, bullying edge defenders while creating open holes for the 49ers’ running backs.
Here were a few of those nasty run blocks from Sunday’s game vs. Eagles (courtesy of Bleacher Report’s Brandon Thorn):
Trent Williams is operating on his own terms right now. He's dictating everything & imposing his will on opponents at a rare level. pic.twitter.com/nerSH0MG0O— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 21, 2021
The 49ers faced a stout Eagles’ defensive line and were able to protect Jimmy Garoppolo better than the last two outings against Philadelphia’s defensive line.
As the defense slightly regresses in 2021, it will be on the offense to pick up the slack this season, and for it to have continued success, it begins upfront with the offensive line.