Now that OTAs (Organized Team Activities) are underway, we can begin to look at how the Niners’ offensive line will fare against the defensive lines of the NFC West.
With the addition of center Weston Richburg in Free Agency and tackle Mike McGlinchey in the NFL Draft, both Lynch and Shanahan are hoping to protect their quarterback prodigy in Jimmy Garoppolo and attack the improved defensive lines in the division.
Today, we will be looking precisely at matchups between the 49ers’ offensive line and their division rivals’ defensive lines to determine how well they have improved over the course of a year and if they will fare successfully against their opponents in the West.
Quick Note: For discussion’s sake, the projected 49ers’ starting offensive line will be:
LT: Joe Staley, #74
LG: Erik Magnuson, #62
C: Weston Richburg, #58
RG: Joshua Garnett, #65
RT: Mike McGlinchey, #69
When facing Arizona, the 49ers’ main concern would have to be on defensive lineman Chandler Jones. After having arguably one of the best seasons of his career in 2017 with 17 sacks and 51 tackles, he will have to once again to prove himself under new head coach Steven Wilks and his defensive system.
Nonetheless, questions still circle the scheme Wilks plans to run. Arizona has used a 3-4 system for 11 years under previous head coaches Bruce Arians and Ken Whisenhunt; now, it has likely developed into more of a 4-3 system in OTAs, moving Jones from outside linebacker to defensive end.
Although big questions remain about how the system will do with less than subpar linebackers, the 49ers’ McGlinchey, a rookie from Notre Dame, will still have to face a big task when opposing Jones twice this season.
With this, the 49ers will be able to create many offensive packages: double team Jones and have both Magnuson and Staley attack the left side of the line, have McGlinchey face Jones singlehandedly and have Richburg maintain pressure from the middle for the pass game, or slide to the left or right on running plays, depending on its direction.
Overall, the 49ers’ offensive line will have a strong task against the Cardinals by keeping Jones from escaping the line and enough ammunition in throwing the different schemes that comes with the amenities of Shanahan’s offensive playbook.
The 49ers will face off the Cardinals in Week 5 and Week 8 of the upcoming 2018 NFL season.
After trading Michael Bennett to the Eagles and losing Sheldon Richardson to free agency, the Seattle Seahawks have significantly lost the power they had previously established in their defensive front.
In spite of their losses, the Seahawks poached recently-acquired linebackers and assistant coach Ken Norton Jr. from the 49ers, making him their newest defensive coordinator. Norton’s presence as a linebacker coach for the University of Southern California led to the influence of Seattle’s decision in the third round with right defensive end Rasheem Green from USC in the NFL Draft.
Compared to the rookie Green and second-year defensive tackle Nazair Jones, the 49ers’ offensive line shows a strong veteran presence compared to that of Seahawks’ defensive front.
The Seahawks’ defensive line has an average of 1.5 years of NFL experience among their starters, whereas the Niners’ offensive line boasts an average of 4.5 years.
This not only shows a lack of experience on the part of Seattle, but their lack of leadership in the front. Without a heavily commanded defensive front, a defensive line may not reach their correct assignments and run gaps correctly come time to play in the field.
And although the 49ers may have a new rookie in Mike McGlinchey, left tackle Joe Staley has proven to be a role model, leader, and mentor on and off the field for McGlinchey.
As for the Seahawks, Norton might be re-thinking his decision to sign with Seattle after seeing the defensive mismatches his young defensive line will prove to be against the 49ers and other NFL teams.
The 49ers will face off the Seahawks in Week 13 and Week 15 of the upcoming 2018 NFL season.
Los Angeles Rams
The center Richburg will have to demonstrate a commanding force in controlling the 49ers’ offensive line against what might be the hardest challenge for the Niners with the Rams’ deadly duo-tandem in Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald, along with Michael Brockers and the re-signed Dominque Easley.
The 49ers’ offensive line will have to decide between double-teaming either Donald or Suh, or focus on them in general and hope that Donald or another defensive lineman will not penetrate through and get to the beloved quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Ndamukong Suh had his worst years as a nose tackle in Miami, as he had little to no help in getting the double-team off of him. Now, he has the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year alongside him in Aaron Donald, who has not yet reported to OTAs as he seeks a long-desired max contract. Questions still remain about Suh and whether he can ignite the fire he wielded in Detroit with the inclusion of Donald.
But as of now, 49ers offensive line coach John Benton will have a lot on his plate on prepping and maturing his linemen to make sure that the Rams defensive line does not prove to be the force everyone expects them to be.
The 49ers will face off the Rams in Week 7 and Week 17 of the upcoming 2018 NFL season.
Bret Rumbeck helped provide key feedback and was an invaluable advisor on this article.
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