Third-year offensive guard Joshua Garnett has been largely absent the past few days of training camp, making his future with the San Francisco 49ers bleak, at best.
There’s a good chance we’ve seen offensive guard Joshua Garnett play his last regular-season game with the San Francisco 49ers.
And it came back on Jan. 1, 2017 in the finale of the 2016 season.
That was Garnett’s rookie season — a year that turned out to be a pretty massive disappointment for the second of two first-round NFL Draft picks former Niners general manager Trent Baalke made that year. After all, Garnett had won the Outland Trophy his final year in college at Stanford, the award given to the top interior linemen in NCAA football.
San Francisco 49ers
But Garnett was a weird fit in then-head coach Chip Kelly’s zone-style offense. Known for his power blocking, Garnett neither possessed the mobility to ability to block in space, which are staples of zone blocking.
A year after his forgettable rookie efforts, Garnett could have caught the attention of head coach Kyle Shanahan, whose outside zone isn’t totally different from the scheme Kelly ran a year ago. The only problem, however, is Garnett suffered what would be a season-ending knee injury during training camp last year. So much for that.
Baalke’s picks haven’t fared well with Shanahan and the new regime. Only a handful of holdovers remain, and Garnett is one of them. Yet his remaining tenure with the team is easily the most precarious from players around before last season.
The Niners dropped a small hint last season, asking Garnett to trim his weight down between 2017 and 2018, which he was able to do. But then San Francisco dropped a bigger hint this offseason, grabbing free-agent guard Jonathan Cooper and signing him to a relatively lucrative one-year, $4.95 million contract.
That’s starter’s money right there, and even general manager John Lynch indicated the team’s intention was to have Cooper compete for a starting job.
OK, so competition is good, right? And the Niners have a void to fill at right guard, where either Garnett or Cooper would be expected to play. The problem, however, is Garnett hasn’t been able to partake much in training camp.
On July 28, San Francisco’s third day of camp, Garnett banged knees with a teammate and hasn’t seen the field since. This prompted Shanahan to later remark he was surprised Garnett wasn’t out there on the field.
“It’s tough to make this team and do it if you’re not out there,” Shanahan told reporters last Wednesday (h/t 49ers Webzone). “I was a little surprised Garnett didn’t make it today. I’d be more surprised if he’s not out there tomorrow.”
Well, Garnett wasn’t out there that tomorrow (Aug. 2) and he wasn’t out there the following day either.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Garnett won’t need surgery on the knee and is expected to continue rehabilitation. But that doesn’t mean Garnett’s job is safe. Anything but.
For starters, offensive lines take time to jell. With Cooper still being worked in from offseason MCL surgery, it’s not likely he’ll see active reps at right guard anytime soon. But he’s cleared and on the field. Meanwhile, veteran offensive lineman Mike Person has been seeing plenty of time with the first-team unit.
Person worked under Shanahan when both were together with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. And Cooper, while often injured, also has the movement skills desirable for Shanahan’s offense.
Simply put, Garnett needs every single rep he can get between now and the regular season. He might have already been on the fringes of San Francisco’s roster bubble heading into 2018.
Now, he has a desperate struggle ahead of him to even hang on.
It wouldn’t be shocking at all to see the Niners attempt to move Garnett to a power-run, O-line needy team out there, and there are a few. But Garnett’s stock value on the trade market wasn’t too high to begin with. And the latest injury plummets that value even further.
And yet again, fans may be forced to swallow yet another draft bust from Baalke — a player who never quite panned out with the 49ers despite the lofty praise and accolades coming out of college.