The San Francisco 49ers have been rolling over the second half of the season, being winners of six straight, which has led them to an 11-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC currently.
During this stretch, the 49ers have been superb offensively, scoring 34.5 points per game and outscoring opponents 207-94.
It’s impressive that they’ve been able to sustain their success despite facing injuries, as guard Spencer Burford has missed three of the team’s last four games due to a knee issue.
With Burford sidelined, the 49ers have turned to veteran Jon Feliciano, who posted a clean slate against the Cardinals in Week 15.
Burford has faced his fair share of ups and downs in 2023, although he was starting to turn things around prior to his injury.
However, with Burford facing knee issues, Feliciano has taken over as the team’s starting guard.
How can Burford regain his starting spot at right guard?
Speaking to reporters ahead of the Ravens game, offensive line coach Chris Foerster shared where Burford needs to improve before seeing the field on a more permanent basis.
“Well, the consistency factor is the number one thing,” Foerster said about Burford. “I mean, an offensive line play as the year goes on and the season gets longer and people see what you do and they see, as we talked about earlier in the year, you start developing a game. They see what your game is and they see what they can take advantage of. So as that happens, you have to play to a level of consistency.”
In Burford’s case, it begins with physical consistency that trickles into issues with technique.
“And with him, it’s some physical consistency, but so much of it comes back to there’s just a lot of parts to the offense and he knows it – it’s just in the spur of the moment, in the game, sometimes it’s not quite right and then all of a sudden you’re a little bit off with your technique and then all of a sudden there’s a play or two that just aren’t what they need to be,” Foerster said.
“So, in the offensive line, sometimes consistency weighs out way over the big play because a big play for a right guard, okay, he reaches the three technique and pancakes someone versus he reaches the three technique and the guy just can’t make the tackle. Both plays will run around the corner eight yards away from him. One of them is a dominant play. The other one’s just an okay play. Neither one of them is going to make that big a difference in the outcome of the game. If he falls on his face and misses him it will. Whereas a running back, that same difference if he makes an outstanding play in the open field and makes a free safety miss, as opposed to just a guy that gets tackled by the free safety, that’s a huge difference in the outcome of the game.”
While splash plays hit the highlight reel for offensive linemen, consistency is extremely important, especially in the 49ers’ offense, and that’s where Burford will need to continue to improve.
“So with offensive line, you’re like, yeah, you love the splash plays, but you have to see the consistency. And that’s what’s hard as an offensive lineman,” Foerster said. “It is a grind day in and day out week in and week out. Especially when I say you start establishing maybe some things that they see about you and things that they’ll try and take advantage of, and you then have to counter. So it’s just a consistency thing. He’s played very good football for us. He’s gotten better every single week and he continues to progress.”
As for now, the 49ers will roll with Feliciano at right guard, hoping to clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed within the next two weeks.
To accomplish that goal, it begins with their Monday Night game against the Baltimore Ravens, where the 49ers are currently seen as 5.5-point favorites.