The 49ers are in the middle of their offseason training program. They held their first OTA practice, which was open to the media last week, and the media will be on hand for Wednesday’s practice this week.
In this week’s mailbag, 49ers fans primarily focused their questions on the offensive line and possible contract extensions for a couple of veteran players; however, they also wondered what caused the early season struggles.
@Ottomattick – Why did the 49ers play so poorly early last season, especially at home? Do you think they will start out better this season?
San Francisco started hot last season, winning their first two games on the road.
Going through the losses, the main problem for the 49ers early last season was turnovers. Against Green Bay, San Francisco had the ball on the Packers’ side of the 50 midways through the fourth quarter when Jimmy Garoppolo fumbled the ball. This led to three points for the Packers, and even though San Francisco came back to take the lead, they were now up one instead of being up four.
San Francisco started hot the following week against Seattle, scoring a touchdown on their first possession. Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception on the next possession, followed by a missed Mitch Wishnowsky field goal. After Seattle scored to go ahead 14-7, Trenton Cannon fumbled the kickoff. Seattle scored two plays later, and the 49ers could not dig themselves out of the hole.
The turnover trend continued in both losses to Arizona and the loss to Indianapolis.
Once San Francisco could clean this up, their season turned around, and they won seven of their last nine in the regular season.
The schedule sets up nicely for San Francisco to get off to a fast start in 2022. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the 49ers start the season 6-0.
@jonathanshain – “If Alex Mack retires, do the 49ers stick with what they have or do they trade for a veteran center?”
I do not see a situation in which the 49ers trade for a veteran center, and they currently have three offensive linemen on their roster who can play center.
Jake Brendel will get the first shot. The veteran has started only three games in his NFL career, but he has the type of mobility Kyle Shanahan looks at the position.
If Brendel doesn’t get the nod, they have Daniel Brunskill, who started eight games at the position for San Francisco. Moving him from right guard creates an opening that would be filled by either Jaylon Moore or rookie Spencer Burford.
San Francisco signed Dohnovan West as an undrafted free agent. The former Arizona State Sun Devil was solid in college but will need time to develop. It’s unlikely the 49ers will go this route.
@joninsocal – “Is JC Tretter still available?”
The eight-year veteran is still available through free agency. Tretter has started all 16 games over the last five seasons with Cleveland.
San Francisco does not have the cap space currently to add Tretter. If Alex Mack retires, they will free up $4.275 million which could then go towards making this signing come to fruition.
@NinerMcgregor – “What sort of season does Mike McGlinchey need to have for the 49ers to offer him a second contract?”
McGlinchey is playing for his next contract this season, but it likely won’t be with the 49ers.
The veteran right tackle is due to earn $10.888 million this year, and I don’t know if the 49ers are in a position to pay more than that moving forward.
I think the answer to this question is more about the development of Spencer Burford and Jaylon Moore.
If Burford or Moore shows they can take over at right tackle, McGlinchey will not be retained. This is part of what happens when a team has several players getting paid near the top of their position.
@Swansong – “What kind of season does Jimmie Ward need to have to be offered an extension?”
I expected the 49ers to try and extend Ward to lower his cap hit this offseason, and that hasn’t happened.
On Tuesday, Ward talked about making the plays it takes to become an All-Pro or be named to the Pro Bowl. It will likely take that type of season from Ward to be given a contract that meets his expectations from the 49ers.
To reach that level, Ward will need to find a way to force more turnovers, something he has struggled with throughout his career.
Ward is a solid deep safety; however, he has only two interceptions and one fumble recovery over the last five seasons.
If Ward can find a way to turn this around, he will be handsomely rewarded with a new contract following the season.