SANTA CLARA — When Bill Walsh was alive, he often said the quarterback defines the limit of an offense, determines how good it can be.
Last season, the 49ers lost their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, to a torn ACL during the third game of the season. His absence was a major reason the 49ers won just four games in 2018, and his performance this season largely will determine if the 49ers make the playoffs — simply because he’s the starting quarterback.
But Garoppolo won’t perform well if his offensive line doesn’t protect him. He needs help, especially during his first season back from a major leg injury. Pass protection will define Garoppolo’s limit and the limit of the 49ers’ offense this season.
The 49ers believe they have a good offensive line. It’s the 10th-most expensive one in the NFL, with all five starters under contract through 2021. But it struggles in pass protection. Last season, the 49ers gave up 48 sacks (ninth most in the NFL) and 125 quarterback hits (second most). The strength of the line is run blocking, which doesn’t help Garoppolo.
Here’s what each starting offensive lineman has to prove heading into training camp:
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