49ers’ 2019 ‘Who Is?’ series: Offensive guard Mike Person

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Mike Person of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Mike Person of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) /

For years before returning to the San Francisco 49ers in 2018, Mike Person was little more than a journeyman offensive lineman. Now, he’s a starter and likely stays such.

If you thought veteran offensive lineman Mike Person was merely going to be a reserve player for the San Francisco 49ers back when he signed a one-year deal in 2018, join the club.

After all, Person’s only season serving in a regular starting role came back in 2015 with the Atlanta Falcons. Aside from that, in nearly every year since initially being drafted by the Niners in Round 7 back in 2011, the 31-year-old veteran has been little more than a backup.

But that lone starting season with Atlanta is important, as now-49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan witnessed Person’s abilities firsthand, as the former was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator.

Mike Person Games Table
1 yr1 yrATL141440
1 yr1 yrSFO161601

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/20/2019.

Rather surprisingly, Person beat out the 49ers’ former first-round pick, Joshua Garnett, in 2018 and ended up starting all 16 regular-season games. His 67.2 Pro Football Focus grade last year ranked 18th among 77 qualifying guards, too.

Subsequently, the Niners rewarded him with a three-year, $9 million new deal during the offseason — a steal, considering both Person’s versatility and upside abilities from a year ago.

Person is poised to retain his starting job in 2019. But were Person’s efforts last year a sign of things to come, or is he destined for the inevitable regression players experience when they hit the wrong side of 30 years old?

Why Mike Person Improves in 2019

Shanahan has never placed too much emphasis on superior guard play, leaving the focus of his offensive line on both tackles and center. Yet Person managed to thrive along the interior, serving adequately as a starter back in 2015 and seemingly thriving last season.

An important, yet often unrecognized factor in any lineman’s performance is continuity. The Niners will have the bonus, hopefully, of retaining all five starters from last year’s cast in their same respective roles this season.

As such, Person won’t have to get used to new faces, techniques and tendencies from the players on either side of him, center Weston Richburg and right tackle Mike McGlinchey.

Why Mike Person Regresses

Well, age is certainly becoming a bigger factor. On one hand, Person shouldn’t have a lot of wear and tear on his body after being a journeyman for most of his career.

That said, there are also reasons why he never secured a long-term starting role at any of his numerous stops either.

It’s just as possible Person reverts back to the kind of backup-level production he’s showcased for much of his career. His 2018 PFF grade was the second highest in his career, bested by 2017’s 68.6 mark. But with only four starts that year with the Indianapolis Colts, it’s hard to gauge whether or not that’s an indication of what’s to come.

Projected Role with the 49ers in 2019

Person re-signed on the cheap means his status for making the 53-man roster is about as good as it gets. He has the capability to back up all five positions along the O-line, meaning he’ll stick around even if he somehow doesn’t win back the starting right guard spot out of training camp.

49ers offensive line coach John Benton told The Athletic’s David Lombardi (h/t 49ers Webzone) Garnett is a “100 percent contender” for a starting job this season, so read into that what you wish. But if past actions predict the future, the job is still Person’s to lose.

By any worthwhile prediction, Person wins the starting job again in 2019. If he struggles or deals with numerous injuries over the course of the year, the Niners may be forced to make some changes, which could affect his role in 2020 and beyond.

For now, though, San Francisco has its starting right guard spot all but locked into place.

Next. Predicting 49ers' offensive line depth chart in 2019. dark

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