• Bret Rumbeck

Has Joshua Garnett Got His Groove Back?

Image Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“It’s anger that’s informed my life, and kind of unflatteringly, a sense of vengeance. Every damn person who said I wouldn’t be anything, I’m crushing them every day… Every day, into a powder. I wish them no ill. I just wish to shine brighter.” – Henry Rollins

Joshua Garnett: Slight Return

People get up out of bed every day, slog through a maze of traffic, and power through eight hours because they are motivated by something. It could be an unseen force, a want to make the world a better place, or just the idea of putting a dollar in the billfold.

On August 25, 2018, when the San Francisco 49ers played the Indianapolis Colts in a preseason match-up, third-year guard Joshua Garnett found his motivation.

Whatever force pushed him – the threat of losing a job or the mountain of articles questioning his ability – catapulted Garnett from the roster bubble to the leading candidate to start at right guard this season.

Garnett returned to live action against the Houston Texans, but played against back up players. He did well enough to shake off a year's worth of rust and remain a contender to start at right guard.

Against Indianapolis, Garnett played 27 snaps, beginning on the 49ers’ third possession. On his first block, he quickly got to the second level and drove the defender downfield. He even pumped his fist in celebration of a great block, which is more emotion than I've ever seen from him previously.

A few plays later, the 49ers were on the Colts 39-yard line. Garnett again got to the linebacker and bulldozed the hapless defender all the way back to the Colts 28-yard line before flattening the poor man to the artificial turf.

Garnett’s run blocking looked much better than it did during his rookie year. He looked faster and squared himself up to the opponent to make a quality block, rather than coming in at an angle and being forced to reach for the opponent.

On the 49ers’ fifth possession, I noted Garnett helping his right tackle with a chip, and then immediately moving back inside to pick up a delayed stunt from the linebacker. He looked comfortable, like it was second nature.

Garnett was not without his flaws, and most are still in his pass blocking skills. I noted three occasions where he missed his man in pass blocking. Too often, Garnett falls back on careless pass blocking habits. His feet look uncontrolled, and he ends up in a position that takes away all the strength from his upper body. Often, it looks as if he’s trying to reach out and grab the defender instead of inflicting a furious punch through the defender.

Garnett drew a flag on the 49ers’ fifth possession, and if you watch the play, you can see Garnett looking like he did when he was a rookie. He is out of position and ends up muddling up the pocket. The holding penalty was just the spoiled cherry on top of bad five seconds of play for Garnett.

Also, in Garnett’s defense, he did not play well after rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey left the game. Once Pace Murphy entered, it looked like Garnett was busy trying to help Murphy on double teams and picking up B-gap stunts.

Pro Football Focus gave Garnett an overall 65.7 grade for the game, and 45.4 pass blocking grade. I roundly reject the 67.8 run blocking grade PFF gave to Garnett. I did not see a run play where Garnett completely missed a block or was the cause of tackle for loss. Maybe the fine people at PFF are the only folks around with access to an all-22 tape, and they can see more than the proles who still struggle to get Gamepass to function.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Garnett’s strange knee injury and questioned his desire to play football. I was excited the 49ers drafted him and thought he’d be the interior cornerstone the team had been missing. But after missing last season due to a knee injury, and then missing ten practices due to reinjuring the same knee, it was fair to ask if Garnett wanted to be in the NFL.

Maybe Garnett still is the rock the team has been looking for, and Saturday’s game was what Garnett needed to prove to himself that he can make it in the NFL.

I’m hopeful to see what he can do this year and to use whatever motivation he can to prove all of us wrong.


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