While many a 49ers fan is worried about the offensive line after Alex Mack’s retirement, the folks over at Pro Football Focus are more bullish.
One of the reasons the San Francisco 49ers could flop this season is if their offensive line turns out to be a massive liability.
The Niners already watched Pro Bowl left guard Laken Tomlinson depart in free agency for the New York Jets, and in recent weeks, they’ve faced the reality another Pro Bowl starter from last year’s crop, center Alex Mack, is going to be off enjoying retirement.
Maybe head coach Kyle Shanahan was planning for both possibilities. A year ago, San Francisco spent a second-round draft pick on former Notre Dame left guard Aaron Banks, who scantly played his rookie year and wouldn’t have beaten out Tomlinson but is now poised to take over in a starting role.
As for Mack, well, perhaps the 49ers are more confident in reserve center Jake Brendel.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to worry about the O-line entering 2022, although the folks over at Pro Football Focus don’t think this unit is as big a concern as it possibly could be.
49ers offensive line receives decent pre-2022 ratings from Pro Football Focus
With PFF taking a pre-regular season look at all 32 teams’ respective units, unit by unit, it’s worth evaluating what they said about all the O-lines out there, including that of the Niners.
San Francisco fans might think this group could trend to become a bottom-third line, but PFF instead lists it right in the middle of the back, No. 14 overall in the league, if we’re being specific.
Although PFF did admit the same concern we just discussed here about the interior:
Projected Starting Lineup
- LT: Trent Williams
- LG: Aaron Banks
- C: Jake Brendel
- RG: Daniel Brunskill
- RT: Mike McGlinchey
This is one heck of a tackle duo, but the interior is a hodgepodge of unproven youngsters. The player to keep an eye on is former second-round guard Aaron Banks, who played just five snaps as a rookie in 2021. But he’s a former second-rounder and has a golden opportunity to replace Laken Tomlinson on the left side.
Calling out Banks is not feasible, but Shanahan has typically downplayed the importance of guards and heightened the significance of tackles and centers.
That’s where someone like Mack could be missed.
Reasons to worry, be optimism about 49ers O-line
Again, PFF analysis doesn’t have to be taken for the gospel, and it’s very subjective. But the above breakdown did leave out two notable concerns.
The first, Brendel, especially since he has just three regular-season starts since breaking into the league way back in 2016. And while that’s a worry in itself, the 49ers do seem fully confident in the former backup’s abilities. Having retained him for the entirety of 2021 on the regular-season roster, Brendel shouldn’t require any crash course in Shanahan’s system.
Likewise, it’s fair to worry a little bit about Banks, too, but effectively redshirting him his rookie season while hoping for him to take on this role in 2022 seems like it was the plan all along.
While the results are yet to be determined, it’s at least good to see the Niners sticking to their plan.
Not discussed, however, is the fact McGlinchey is returning from that quad tear suffered last season, which limited him to eight games and still puts in jeopardy his ability to be 100 percent by the time the season starts. What’s reassuring is that all signs are pointing to him being ready even though he’s been absent from offseason workouts thus far because of his recovery.
San Francisco still better hope he’s fully healthy, however.