The 49ers have flashy assets on the perimeter, but the offensive line will be a work in progress leading into the season's first week. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has his work cut out to figure out the perfect five to anchor the run game and protect second-year phenom, Trey Lance.
General manager John Lynch drafted two offensive tackles who will likely have to move inside at the NFL level. Spencer Burford was selected 134th overall and seemed to have the better opportunity at playing tackle. However, his kick slide is almost non-existent, he plays flat-footed, and speed rushers and players lined up in a Wide-9 tend to give him fits.
Nick Zakelj admitted that he fares better at playing guard instead of tackle in the NFL. This sets up tackle Sam Schlueter as the next undrafted free agent gem in San Francisco. However, Alex Huettel stressed to Jordan Elliot that Zakelj would succeed on the inside.
I do think he’s going to excel on the inside, he’s quick twitch, he’s going to get his hands on people, he can bend, he can play with the leverage, he’s going to strain to finish guys because it’s a phone booth game on the inside. But I do think Nick is athletic enough and long enough to kick out to the outside and save the day if needed.
On a serious note, San Francisco’s offensive tackle depth is questionable outside of All-Pro Trent Williams. And even then, Williams missed time last year with ankle and elbow injuries. Williams says he wants to finish his contract with the 49ers, but retirement can blindside a franchise.
Right tackle Micke McGlinchey is rebounding from a quad injury that cut his 2021 season short. Seeing a spry McGlinchey during OTAs will be an uplifting sight for the entire team — especially Lance. You won’t be able to take much away from offseason workouts, but it'll be riveting news to see him on track to start Week 1 with several unknowns at tackle.
Jaylon Moore looked to be a serviceable swing tackle through the preseason, but he was benched for a bad performance in Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Something tells me that he may have a chance at one of the backup tackle spots with the incoming rookie's pass-blocking incompetence.
Justin Skule looks to compete for playing time after missing last season with a torn ACL. He showed promise when replacing Joe Staley when he broke his fibula in 2020. Skule was a force in the running game but tended to get lost in pass protection.
Colton McKivitz was inactive for nearly the whole season last year. Until he got the start in a must-win game in Week 17 against the Los Angeles Rams. Pro Football Focus listed McKivitz as one of the three lowest-graded (55.5) 49ers players on offense. Luckily, Jimmy Garoppolo took the bull by the horns and had his strongest performance of the season.
Injuries have limited the 49ers in the last two seasons. Health is vital across the NFL, but it will be extremely important for San Francisco’s tackle group to stay up. The interior offensive line has been bolstered, while the tackle group could use some retooling.
Pass protection is the main concern with the tackles on the roster while all of them succeed in the run game. We watched an unsettled Lance shed and evade free rushers in his limited playing time last year. Shanahan can do so much in hiding bad offensive line play with play-calling.
Does San Francisco’s tackle depth concern you?
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i will have a better feel for it come training camp