Expectations are high for a team whose offense relies on youth at most of its positions. The 49ers will start a fourth-round rookie at right guard and use the speed of the 105th overall pick from the 2022 draft to create space on offense.
Jordan Schultz tweeted that he spoke with a team source from the 49ers, and they love Spencer Burford:
“It’s like he’s already a five-year pro. He’s very sound, very smart and very long. He ran outside-zone in college. Plug-and-play guy. Trey has total trust in him.”
Burford’s college coach confirmed that his scheme fit caught the Niners' attention. But, five-year pro fluff aside, the guard turned left tackle turned guard again earned the right to be a plug-and-play guy.
Having the trust of your quarterback and the coaching staff should make for a long leash for Burford. His raw strength will buy Burford time while he fine-tunes his mental processing.
Watch the right guard, No. 74, below. The defensive tackle, No. 93, tries to use a long-arm and bull-rush Burford into the quarterback. After initially giving ground, Burford does a fantastic job of dropping his weight and turning into a brick wall:
That stoutness shows up in the running game. It’ll be trial by fire for Burford when it comes to pass protection. He can study until he’s blue in the face, but there will be looks thrown at him he hasn’t seen.
Burford got burned by overhelping on one play but learned from his mistake and picked up another game the defensive line ran late in the half. What he’s seeing in the preseason will pale in comparison to what’s thrown at Burford during the regular season.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan was pleased that Burford and left guard Aaron Banks improved as the game went along:
“Anytime you throw these guys out there that haven’t played before, there’s a lot to go through, and you try to limit the ups and downs that they go through during the game.
They didn’t get to play the whole game. They only got the first half, but both of them made some mistakes, and then it was nice to see them both come back and rebound there in the second quarter and do some good things.”
The theme is consistent for the youngsters on the 49ers’ offense this season: Learn from your mistakes.
Danny Gray has left an impression, too. He caught a deep pass for a touchdown during the first preseason game. He had an opportunity to come down with a score against the Vikings but ran out of room along the sideline. In the future, Gray will need to give himself a better alignment before the ball is snapped, so the quarterback has space to throw the pass.
Gray is a blur. The fact the 49ers can throw deep passes to a receiver is a welcomed change. Here’s Schultz’s quote from a team source on Gray:
“His speed is lethal for us. Just the threat alone, but he can go get it now too. He’s also been receptive to coaching.”
We’ve discussed how Gray’s speed helps the offense without him touching the ball. It wouldn’t be surprising if the rookie had a bigger impact than Jauan Jennings this season. Gray gives Shanahan a new club in his bag he didn’t have last season.
If you remember, last year, Kyle Shanahan was so hard on Brandon Aiyuk that Aiyuk admitted that he felt Shanahan was picking on him. Shanahan said, “he doesn’t think you’re picking on him, " switching gears back to Gray.” If Shanahan feels that way, it could be a signal that we see more of Gray on the field sooner than later.