The San Francisco 49ers‘ offensive line took quite a bit of blame for their play this past season. Some of it was justified, as the mistakes came at the most inopportune times. Those moments were stuck in our brains, and we overlooked a good amount of positive play.
For the 2020 regular season, the Niners rushing attacked finished tenth in rushing success rate. Meaning they were gaining enough yards to put them ahead of the chains consistently. The offensive line did their part. The difference between this year and last year is that San Francisco lacked the big play out of the backfield— at least at the rate of 2019.
This season, the 49ers ranked 14th in rushes that went for at least 15 yards. With 51 on the year, per Sharp Football Stats. In 2019, San Francisco was second in the NFL with 80, yes 80 rushes of at least 15 yards. A healthy Raheem Mostert would have made a difference this year, but a healthy starting quarterback was the biggest difference of all.
How much of that can be attributed to the offensive line? It’s tough to say. Their adjusted line yards in 2019 was 4.53. That number dipped to 4.20 in 2020. PFF ranked each offensive line in the NFL, and San Francisco’s ranking may surprise you, as they’re in the top 10:
It was difficult to be 100% certain about what Trent Williams would look like after the injuries and time off, but he quickly made it clear that this was still the same guy who was perennially in the conversation for being the best left tackle in the NFL. In fact, Williams’ 91.9 PFF grade during the 2020 regular season was the best mark by any left tackle in the league.
His size and athleticism allow him to do things in the run game that most tackles simply can’t, and that was apparent again in San Francisco this season despite all the injuries they suffered.
For all those injuries, the offensive line was able to stay relatively healthy outside of the center position, where each of Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland and Hroniss Grasu played 200 or more offensive snaps. The interior offensive line could be an area that the 49ers look to upgrade this offseason, but all in all, it was an impressive showing for the offensive line this season.
The article states that PFF used their grades as a guide, and the rankings reflected how each group played this season rather than a future projection.
This high ranking is an indicator of how well Williams and Laken Tomlinson played this season. Brunskill held his own, but he’s not a center you want starting if you’re making a championship run. Unless the 49ers upgrade at right guard, too, releasing Weston Richburg would save the 49ers $8.35 million in 2021 and $9.1 million in 2022, with a dead money charge of $3.5 and $3.4 million in each season, respectively.
Richburg’s cap number for 2021 is $11.8 million. The Niners could add a quality, healthy lineman to replace Richburg or to sign a right guard. Corey Linsley is 30 and would be a home run signing, but he’s also going to cost a pretty penny. Alex Mack is a popular name, but Linsley would be your home-run signing.
If you want more experience than Brunskill or a rookie, don’t want to break the bank, and also steal a starter from a divisional rival, Rams center Austin Blythe is an option. Blythe’s Over the Cap valuation is listed at $5.5 million per year. We’ll get into more free agency profiles as we get closer to March.
There’s no mention of Mike McGlinchey in the article. Sports Info Solutions credited McGlinchey for 32 blown blocks this season. Twenty-six of them were against the pass. McGlinchey has been an elite run blocker and average pass protector since college. His struggles were highlighted this year with a pair of backup quarterbacks that didn’t move well. McGlinchey isn’t going anywhere and isn’t one of the 49ers’ five biggest worries.