Key Offensive Line Competitions
One or two of the aforementioned rookies selected by the 49ers may be in a position to land on the 53-man roster, but that’s a stretch.
Instead, the Niners largely turned to free agency to land some veteran presence along the line. Three of these players — Tim Barnes, Brandon Fusco and Garry Gilliam — figure to top off the more heated competitions along the offensive line this training camp.
Jeremy Zuttah vs. Daniel Kilgore
Center is of high importance to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme, which lends credence to Jeremy Zuttah winning the job over Daniel Kilgore.
Zuttah is 31 years old, however, and some may argue his 2016 Pro Bowl nod was more a product of being on a good Ravens O-line last year. Meanwhile, Kilgore was one of the Niners’ better linemen last year, but he comes with a significant injury history.
Trent Brown vs. Garry Gilliam
Right tackle Trent Brown has shown his value in pass protection but offers very little in run support, especially at the second level. His 6-foot-8, 355-pound frame isn’t built to move well in space or with speed, which is probably the reason the Niners brought in Gilliam for competition.
Yet Gilliam’s pass protection is wholly inadequate, and fans of the Seattle Seahawks will recall how porous his pass blocking was for quarterback Russell Wilson a year ago.
Zane Beadles vs. Joshua Garnett vs. Brandon Fusco
San Francisco inked offensive lineman Zane Beadles to a three-year, $9.75 million contract prior to the 2016 season, yet his first year in Santa Clara was anything but impressive. The one thing likely keeping him on the roster this year is his ability to play both tackle spots and all three interior O-line positions.
The Niners also will hope second-year pro Joshua Garnett improves upon what was otherwise an underwhelming rookie campaign. Expectations should be high for the first-round draftee.
If not, Fusco might be a player to watch.