One of the biggest surprises of the 2022 season for the San Francisco 49ers was how well their revamped offensive line played after some major shakeups on the interior. Leading the charge for this new-look group on the inside was second year guard Aaron Banks, who shined during his first full year as a starter in the NFL.
Banks entered the league with lofty expectations after the 49ers selected the Notre Dame offensive lineman with their second round pick in the 2021 draft. After injuries and a log jam at the position kept Banks from seeing much action during his rookie year, he was suddenly thrust into a prominent role on a championship contender.
Longtime starter Laken Tomlinson left some big shoes to fill, and Banks delivered in a huge way during a season that saw him allow just one sack over the course of the regular season. Banks was stout in pass protection and helped pave the way for a ground attack that was reliant on the athleticism of its guards moving in space.
Perhaps nobody had a better feel for just how important Banks was to the 49ers success this year than the All-Pro left tackle who lined up next to him for over 1,000 snaps this season.
I spoke with Trent Williams and asked him about the growth he saw from Banks this past season, and some observations he had about the promising young lineman:
“I think we saw the reason why he was a second round pick, the reason why he was highly touted coming out of Notre Dame. We had Laken [Tomlinson] the first year so he was able to sit and watch, but I think he showed why he was drafted where he was, and why everyone has such high expectations for him. I think he surpassed those expectations and this was just the first stepping stone into a very storied career that he’s going to have. He’s going to do very well.”
Later in my conversation with Williams, I asked him if his relationship with Banks was one that allowed the young guard to lean on Williams for advice and have the ability to learn hands on from one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever step foot on an NFL field:
“100 percent. We’ve always had an open line of communication. His development and growth has a lot to do with how my football season and career goes, so i’m heavily invested in trying to get the best out of him. He’s honestly made my job easy, he’s been a huge help to me more-so than me having to mentor and bring him along. Words can’t express how good he played this year, and we know that there’s more to come.”
With additional changes likely on the horizon for a 49ers offensive line that has multiple starters set to hit the free agent market, there is one constant you can count on. The left side will be a reliable safety blanket for whoever is under center, as Banks and Williams appear poised to hold down the blindside for the foreseeable future.