Can 49ers’ offensive line make progress in 2019?

San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach John Benton, center right, talks with Jamar McGloster, from left, Joe Staley (74) and Mike McGlinchey during NFL football practice at the team’s headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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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This article has 68 Comments

  1. The strength of the line is run blocking, which doesn’t help Garoppolo.

    Au contraire! The running game is the qb’s best friend, especially in this offense.

    I agree with our #3 pairing of OT’s(according to PFF). Continuity, and familiarity is what will take this offensive line to the next level.

    1. “The running game is the qb’s best friend, especially in this offense.”

      Makes sense. Especially when you consider that Garoppolo was sacked 13 times in 3 starts this year while they were averaging 5.6 yards per rush.

      1. Makes even more sense when you consider those 5 weeks against playoff teams in ’17 he had the most yards per possession by an offense in the NFL, and there were no cigars. So what if they ran the ball versus throwing for TD’s? I expect this offense to be top 7 in yards per drive. If they can see their way to more redzone production, the 2nd most important component of the offense will pair nicely with their mastery of the most important one….

        1. “Au contraire! The running game is the qb’s best friend, especially in this offense.”

          This is a great cliche that only holds up if the offensive line can pass protect.

          During that win streak you mention Garoppolo was sacked only 8 times while they struggled to run the ball averaging only 3.7 ypa, and that was helped out a bunch by facing the Rams backups.

          In 2018 he was sacked 13 times in 3 games while they ran the ball well, averaging 5.6 ypa.

          “I expect this offense to be top 7 in yards per drive”

          Two responses to this:

          1. Who cares since 4 of the top 7 teams in this stat last year missed the playoffs.

          2. Then why draft a punter….in the 4th round?

          The area that would provide the biggest improvement is turnovers. Giving up the 2nd most and getting the fewest is where it pretty much stops and starts. The top 7 teams in this stat all made the playoffs in 2018 and 6 of 7 in 2017.

          1. This offense runs through play action, quick passing and the deep shot. I fully expect this offensive line to be much improved in pass pro, not only due to familiarity and continuity, but also the return of Garoppolo, who will come out rusty, but round into form quickly. Not to mention the offenses diversity afforded by the new personnel groupings at Shanny’s disposal this year, as opposed to last year.

            Yards per drive is the most important component to an offense, followed by redzone production.

            The 4th round punter card has been played out. Get over it. Play it again if he turns out to not be as advertised.

            Turnovers forced by the defense and fewer by the offense will always increase your playoff chances. Always has, always will….

            1. “This offense runs through play action, quick passing and the deep shot.”

              Yeah, and the success of the running game doesn’t change that or the amount the QB’s are getting hit.

              “Yards per drive is the most important component to an offense,”

              Meh. It looks pretty but has a very low correlation to winning games.

              1. Yeah, and the success of the running game doesn’t change that or the amount the QB’s are getting hit.

                The OL is much more responsible for the success of the running game than it is the passing game. The QB holds the majority of the responsibility for the success or failure in the passing game. To your point, the analytics say you don’t need to run the ball to be effective at play action. Instead, it’s the quarterback that must have pin point accuracy. The most effective play action teams had elite qb’s throwing the ball.

                Meh. It looks pretty but has a very low correlation to winning games.

                The quarterbacks running truly dominant offenses move the chains with consistency in every circumstance. Brees and Brady are prime examples where each has that synergistic relationship with a proven offensive mind. That’s why I’m so encouraged about the combination of Shanny and Jimmy….

              2. “The OL is much more responsible for the success of the running game than it is the passing game.”

                Eh. If the QB is getting pressured and hit often it doesn’t matter much who is back there.

                “The quarterbacks running truly dominant offenses move the chains with consistency in every circumstances

                Meh. Even Brady has only hit the top 7 twice in the last 5 years.

                On the other hand the Patriots have been top 4 in turnover ratio for 4 of the last 5 years.

                Again. Yards are pretty. They have very little correlation to winning.

                Case in point. The 49ers went to 3 straight conference championship games and a Super Bowl from 2011-2013 all while finishing 23, 13, 22 in yards per possession.

              3. Again. Yards are pretty. They have very little correlation to winning.

                I’d say the more opportunities afforded a successful offense, the better your chances for victory.

              4. “Analytical evidence is often grey, whereas common sense is often uncommon.”

                The Saints have finished top 7 for 5 straight years, yet 3 of those they missed the playoffs and finished under .500. In the two playoff years they were +15. In the other 3 years they were -14.

                The Buccaneers have finished top 7 a total of 3 times in the last 5 years. No playoff berths. Winning record only once. They were -27 those 3 years.

                Yeah yards are pretty. They have very little correlation to winning.

              5. I understand that some defensive schemes use that bend but don’t break strategy similar to Vic Fangio. They don’t mind letting an offense march up and down the field as long as they’re not giving up TD’s. They are anticipating the offense will make a mistake through the amount of snaps, but the defense still has to react to what the offense is doing. One wrong reaction, one miscommunication can translate to a big play and score. As an offense, would you rather have 3 shots to score or 11? As a defense, would you rather give Brees or Brady an 8 minute drive or 3 and out?

              6. Razor, I agree. Offensive yards are a good barometer for team proficiency, and many playoff teams are giving up yards because they build up a lead, and have the other team trying to play catch up.
                .
                What the team needs most is consistency. Yes, the Niner OTs rated number 3, but that is because the defenses attacked the interior O line. Just like with the defense. Niners ranked number 7 against the run, but that is because the offenses passed so much, attacking the DBs.
                .
                Hopefully, the defense will have a pass rush, that helps the DBs, and an O line that will help with the run game and the passing game, equally. Giving up the second most QB pressures in the league is not a good stat, which does not translate to winning.
                .
                Things also change. The Seahawks had the best rushing attack, but their passing game was anemic. This season, I expect them to be better balanced. The Rams and Chiefs had potent offenses, but they built up leads so their opponents passed like mad to try to catch up, hurting the Rams and Chiefs’ defensive stats. It is all relative. Maybe the best statistic that decides winning and losing, is the points for and against each team. However, yards per play is also important, because it helps gauge success.
                .
                Sounds like Jack is cherry picking stats, while you are just using common sense.

              7. You originally wrote, “I expect this offense to be top 7 in yards per drive”

                Now you’re changing it up to include “As an offense, would you rather have 3 shots to score or 11? As a defense, would you rather give Brees or Brady an 8 minute drive or 3 and out?”

                Your original statement of yards per possession has very little to do with plays per possession.

                Of the top 7 teams in yards per possession from 2018, only 2 also rank in the top 7 of plays per possession.

              8. Absent chunk plays, the longer an offense possesses the football, and moves the ball down the field, the more yards per drive they should have, as well as opportunities for a big play. Practically speaking….

              9. “Maybe the best statistic that decides winning and losing, is the points for and against each team.”

                Maybe. LOL. Last time I checked games were decided by points, not yards.

              10. Sure they are, but they’re not consistent. Chunk plays are usually a product of a defensive mistake.

              11. “Sure they are, but they’re not consistent” which is probably why yards per possession has a low correlation to wins as I’ve been stating.

              12. Your analytical perspective is clouding your common sense. I understand the point you’re trying to make, but as I’ve stated, there are numerous variables that go into your analytics. Yards per possession in and of itself does not win football games, however if the offense capitalizes on all those extra opportunities afforded through the yards per possession by scoring, then you’d realize there’s a silver lining in your cloud….

              13. LOL. Yards per possession doesn’t increase the number of opportunities because as you pointed out, there’s chunk plays in there.

                The best measure of offensive success as it correlates to actually winning games, the goal, is points per game. If the 49ers can get to top 7 in this stat they’ll have an 80% chance of reaching the playoffs, compared to 57% if they are top 7 in ypp. If they can get to top 7 in net ypp they’ll have a 94% chance.

                For whatever reason fans get way too caught up in yards.

              14. LOL, chunk plays are usually a byproduct of a defensive mistake. The more opportunities an offense has to force them into that mistake, the better from this fans perspective….

              15. “….chunk plays are usually a byproduct of a defensive mistake. The more opportunities an offense has to force them into that mistake”

                You’re conflating yards per possession with plays per possession.

              16. Were you aware KC was #1 in yards per drive, and interestingly enough, #1 in plays per drive in 2018.

              17. Yes. They were also 1st in points per drive.

                Did you know that only 57% of teams that finished in the top 7 in yards per possession made the playoffs, compared to 80% of the teams that finished top 7 in points per possession over the last 5 years?

                That’s been the whole point of my stance. Yards are pretty. They don’t win games.

                You focus on the 57% and I’ll focus on the 80%.

              18. Yes. They were also 1st in points per drive.

                So you’re saying it’s a coinkydink?

                Look, everyone knows you have to score points, and that’s why Shanny made the redzone production a top priority this offseason….

              19. Coincidence? No. But unless you think the 49ers are going to be the 2019 version of the Chiefs it’s irrelevant.

                Yes. Hopefully the 49ers will be better in the redzone this year.

                Did you know that only 4 of the top 7 teams in points scored per possession last year ranked in the top 7 in points per redzone possession?

                Same with touchdowns per redzone possession, where only 4 of 7 made the playoffs. Interesting.

                Don’t care how or from where he gets the points, but let’s hope Shanny can get this offense to top 7 in that stat and almost everyone will be happy. 👍🏻

  2. RazorI disagree….if these lineman can’t pass block Crappolo will break his other knee you bonehead….Mullins gets the ball out much quicker= it may be a blessing if JimmyC goes down, but knowing Kyle he will start BeatHard over Mullns….surprised the team didn’t bolster the Olne to protect their overpaid QB but then again, they didn’t bolster the DB’s either

    1. 1. Pretty Boy showed last year that he can break his own knee without help or hindrance from his offensive line, thank you very much.
      2. “Didn’t bolster the Oline…didn’t bolster the DBs either.” So you must feel that Witherspoon has more talent than Verrett. Now if Verrett can’t play due to injury, you’d be right *in retrospect* that the Niners didn’t bolster the DBs. BTW, in FA and the draft, they only bolstered TE, WR, RB, LB, DL, and ST. Now in all fairness, OL needs an upgrade; they’d better get a center, guard, and tackle during the next offseason. And they’ll likely need to get a CB and S as well.

      1. yes Verrett on paper could be better but is always AWOL. So perhaps one upgrade to the worst group of defensive backs of all time in the NFL….Lots of good players in free agency that was passed upon and in the draft…same crap same result….rinse and repeat- oh but there is 8 Dlineman and 8 slot receivers LOL

    1. Happy 4th. It sounded like a war zone in Sebastopol, last night, with some great fireworks. They, for some reason, celebrate on the 3rd.

    2. Razor
      * And a Happy 4th to you and yours also. How’s the 4th’s weather in your neck of the woods?
      * Hope everyone enjoys the 4th, has plenty of good food and cold refreshments…..DRIVE SAFE

  3. Now, Brown is an Oakland Raider, and the highest-paid offensive lineman of all time. A man at the peak of his craft.

    This season will tell us whether that provocative statement holds any water. The peak of his craft part, not the highest-paid part.

  4. But last season, he (person) gave up only four sacks — the fewest of the 49ers’ five starting linemen. Person was in the zone.

    So Person gave up the same number of sacks as Brown. Brown played on the team with a QB known for his famous quick release, Person played nearly half a season with Beathard at QB. Even so, Brown is at the peak of his craft, Person is likely to revert and lose his job. Got it.

  5. Sebastopol residents, first and foremost- Happy Fourth! I want to direct you to a wonderful landscaping company I found recently. It’s called Ogasawara Landscaping and they come highly rated.

  6. Person beat Garnett for the starting RG spot and started all 16 games. Garnett only got into the week 1 game after Person went down.

  7. I hope they experiment with players in different positions, and wonder if any of the newcomers could break into the lineup.
    .
    McGlinchey gave up 12 sacks? I wonder why they rated him so highly.

    1. Yes. Definitely should destroy any possible continuity in the limited amount of physical work allowed. 🙄

      1. Considering they rated so low, (23rd in the league), improving the O line should be a priority. They allowed way too many sacks, and QB pressures.
        .
        Doing the exact same thing, and expecting improvement, may not be the wisest course of action.
        .
        They did draft an O lineman, and signed several new ones, so even the Niners are looking to possibly improve the O line.

    1. The USGS reports no risk of tsunami from the quake swarm at Ridgecrest.
      No kidding? Ridgecrest is in the Mojave Desert! Come-on man!

  8. The play of the OL is an underrepresented key to the 49ers offense this year. Sure, JG needs to play well. But coming off a knee injury, having the OL giving him lots of clean pockets while continuing to be strong in the run game will be a big key to offensive success.

  9. Happy 4th of July, from Canada!

    I’m hoping another year of continuity will help the line. It’s my understanding that Shanny’s blocking scheme takes some time getting used to. Big Mike seems like a sponge and he’s learning from an all time great. So a year in and NFL weight room, plus learning the system and skills from Staley he should improve.
    My biggest concern is Richburg and his health.
    Homerism aside, I really do think this line will take a big step forward this year.

  10. But McGlinchey gave up 12 sacks in 16 games. A turnstile

    Pardon my french but what the hell are you talking about ?
    12 sacks ? Where did you see that stat ?
    PFF had him at 5 sacks, and 11 hits (where Brown allowed 3 sacks and 12 hits).
    Profootball reference are keeping track of the sacks he allowed and neither is the NFL website.

    1. They traded for Coleman, who precipitated Gilligan’s release. They must like him, because they didn’t give him much in the form of competition. I think he was the Brown’s 3rd rounder and has a season’s worth of starting experience. Hopefully he never sees a snap….

  11. I submit to you, just look at my 10:50 post, then look at the 11:11 post, and decide which brings better content to this site. I mentioned how to improve the Red Zone Offense, and identify a possible key player. The other is another screed that actually defines himself, not me.

    http://www.cashprofit1.com

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