Like so many other positions this season, the 49ers offensive line has been hit hard by injuries. Right guard Joshua Garnett, who never secured starting duties to start the season, has been out with a toe injury since Week 1. And Joe Staley could be the next to miss some time. Let’s hope not.
Center Weston Richburg played banged up for almost all of Week 4 too.
San Francisco’s O-line hasn’t looked great in pass protection, being ranked 27th in this category by Pro Football Focus. And while some of the 14 sacks allowed fell on Jimmy Garoppolo holding onto the ball too long back in Week 2, this group is still figuring out how to jive without allowing unnecessary pressure.
In the run game, however, the Niners have been much more effective up front. Before Week 4, PFF ranked this group third in run support. That number likely takes a small hit after the 49ers gained just 76 rushing yards in Week 4. Still, those offseason upgrades appear to be paying off in this particular area.
Run blocking has been solid. No. 1 running back Matt Breida entered Week 4 as the league’s leading rusher. He has been put in position to rip off chunk yards too, showcasing this unit’s ability to continue extending blocks beyond the point of attack.
That’s what Kyle Shanahan was looking for.
Also of note, right tackle Mike McGlinchey is slowly starting to look like he can be a solid bookend for this team for years to come. It wasn’t a sexy pick at No. 9 overall in this year’s NFL Draft. But it’s paying off.
What Needs Improvement
Some of it falls on the quarterback, yes. But pass protection hasn’t exactly been there this season. And the multitude of injuries have called into question the Niners’ efforts to find adequate depth behind their starters.
Expect that to be a point of address between now and 2019.