4 49ers Who Could Possibly Struggle Under Chip Kelly
By Rich Madrid
ENTIRE RIGHT SIDE OF THE OFFENSIVE LINE – THE RIGHT GUARDS ANDREW TILLER AND BRANDON THOMAS
Right guard Andrew Tiller is in the same boat as Brown. He’s about 20 pounds bigger than a typical guard in Kelly’s offense and he struggled frequently in space when the 49ers ran zone.
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(GIF: NFL GamePass, Tiller, RG #61)
He was acquired while Jim Harbaugh was still the coach and fits the mold of a Harbaugh power-scheme guard rather than a Kelly zone -scheme guard. His draft profile ranks him quite low, athletically, compared to other guards in his draft.
Tiller only faced a few top pass-rushing teams (Seattle and Arizona) and still did not finish with a spectacular pass-rushing grade. And that Bears game where the offensive line played well? That team’s defense ranked 29th overall, and 32nd against the run, based on DVOA.
The 49ers drafted Brandon Thomas in the 2014 draft and quickly earned a spot on the Trent Baalke “All-ACL team.” He has made zero contributions to the team in two years. In 2015, he played in all four preseason games but did not play a single down all season. He was inactive for 15 games and active for Week 5 but did not play.
It turns out that he was battling a high ankle sprain, and this may have factored into the decision by the team to sit him all year. During OTAs, Thomas was only elevated to the first team at right guard due to an absent Joshua Garnett, who was finishing school at the time according to the Mercury News’ Cam Inman. By the end of OTAs, Thomas was replaced by Tiller on the first team but by the end of minicamp, Thomas had returned to right guard on the first team.
At this point, it’s uncertain what will happen with Thomas going forward, but this just adds uncertainty to an already talent deficient offensive line. The addition of rookie Josh Garnett also does not bode well for the third-year player out of Clemson.
OFFENSIVE LINE OUTLOOK
While the offensive line did perform better late in the season, that is most likely due to the schedule and not some kind of dramatic improvement. The 49ers went from having one of the league’s toughest schedules in the first half of the season, to a league-average schedule in the second half.
Currently, Pears is projected as the starter at right tackle over Trent Brown and rookie Fahn Cooper.
A lot can happen between now and the end of training camp, but the deficiencies on the right side of the offensive line, combined with the relative lack athleticism typically seen in a Chip Kelly offensive line don’t bode well for a number of players. Fortunately Kelly is kind of an offensive genius and should be able to scheme adjustments to keep the offense moving.
Next: Quinton Patton