Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
Nobody thought the San Francisco 49ers would reach Week 10 as the sole undefeated team in professional football. And nobody thought the 49ers would reach this point with both starting tackles watching most of the victories from the sideline.
Call it a miracle, freak occurrence, or the impossible becoming possible, but both Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey will be available to play against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night.
The according-to-Hoyle miracle here is not Staley walking back on the field after a fractured fibula. It’s not McGlinchey recovering from minor knee surgery in record time either.
No, it’s that both Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill played well enough to keep the 49ers as a top-ten offense.
The 49ers’ run statistics on the edges and over tackle are quite astounding. When running over right end and right tackle, 49er backs gained 466 yards on 84 attempts. That’s an average of 5.54 yards per attempt. Further, the 49ers gained 28 first downs and scored five touchdowns.
On the other side of the line, the 49ers have attempted 59 runs over left end and left tackle for 365 yards. Backs average 6.19 yards per attempt when running to the left, picking up 14 first downs and four touchdowns.*
Of course, Staley and McGlinchey contributed to those numbers, but a collective tip of the hat should go to Skule and Brunskill.
No matter how the 2019 season turns out for the 49ers, one of the major storylines will be how two tackles with no NFL game experience stepped in and helped guide the team to success.
McGlinchey vs. Brunskill
The 49er brass took a bit of grief from fans after selecting McGlinchey ninth overall in the 2018 NFL draft. But give the executive office credit for taking a tackle early, as McGlinchey finished his rookie year with a 73.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
This season, that 73.2 grade has dropped 15.2 points to a dismal 58.0 overall grade.
Over 283 snaps, McGlinchey allowed two sacks, two hurries, and five pressures. McGlinchey was not having his best sophomore year, and his rookie performance felt a long way away.
Brunskill has played 284 snaps this season, one more than McGlinchey. Statistically, he’s outplayed McGlinchey, allowing only one sack, four pressures, and hasn’t drawn a single penalty.
It’s not my place to speculate why McGlinchey was struggling or why Brunskill succeeded. Despite the numbers, McGlinchey is a better overall tackle.
Brunskill’s most significant issues were getting tossed aside by defenders or missing defenders on blocks.
Week 7: 2nd Quarter – 2nd and 3 at the WAS 23 (13:38)
Power runs exist at every level of football. The point of attack can vary, but the DNA of the play remains mostly unaltered. Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s power runs attack inside to off-the-strong-side tackle.
That means Brunskill had to make this block for the play to succeed.
Washington’s defensive end Matt Ioannidis moved Brunskill out of the way and made the tackle with great ease.
There were plays where Brunskill had no problem in a run or pass block. But he would seem to get easily moved aside or get lost in a blocking assignment.
Staley vs. Skule
Like Brunskill, Skule had his high and low points while filling in for Staley.
Week 8: 1st Quarter – 2nd and 11 at the SF 24 (3:52)
Shanahan’s filter screen tells the offensive line to make a full turn away from the call, using gap blocking principles.
The free offensive lineman, in this case Skule, is to climb vertically to the second level. He is to look inside out for defensive players to flatten.
Skule looked great on the play, and his efforts helped tight end George Kittle gain 12 yards.
For some reason, the Seahawks generate a primal fear in the 49ers. It’s not that Skule and Brunskill could not handle Seattle’s defensive line and linebackers. Instead, it feels more like a security blanket to have Staley and McGlinchey book-ending the offensive line on Monday.
I want to see Staley and McGlinchey in the huddle on Monday night, infecting the men around them with their intensity and attitude. Both men deserve to be on the field to keep building on the 49ers’ successful season.
Images courtesy of NFL.com.
*Author’s math using Pro Football Focus statistics.
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