49ers 2020 ‘Who Is?’ series: Will Shon Coleman ever play a game?

Shon Coleman #72 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Shon Coleman #72 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Shon Coleman hasn’t had the best of luck with the 49ers since 2018

The San Francisco 49ers had question marks at tackle entering 2018, which was a prime reason why the team brought aboard former Cleveland Browns starting tackle Shon Coleman just ahead of the regular season.

Coleman wasn’t expected to start that year, despite being a 16-game starter in Cleveland the previous year. But he was intended to be the primary outside reserve behind the tackle tandem of Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

As it turned out, the Niners enjoyed excellent health along their offensive line that year, missing only one starter’s start, Weston Richburg, over the entirety of 2018.

2019, however, was much different in terms of injury. And that fell upon Coleman as well.

In San Francisco’s first preseason game last year, Coleman suffered a serious ankle and lower-leg injury, which landed him on season-ending injured reserve. Despite the 49ers selecting former Vanderbilt tackle Justin Skule in the NFL Draft, Coleman was likely to at least earn a roster spot heading into the regular season.

If there was a positive for the Niners, Coleman’s injury opened up the door for reserve lineman Daniel Brunskill to become a featured member of the offensive line.

Yet that doesn’t necessarily spell good news for the 28-year-old Coleman entering 2020.

The 49ers retained Coleman’s services for another year, inking him to a one-year contract worth $962,500. But given only $137,500 of that would be dead money, if cut, there’s no guarantee Coleman ends up making the 53-man roster this season.

What are his chances to do so, and how can he improve on what’s otherwise been a quiet tenure with San Francisco?

Why Shon Coleman improves with 49ers in 2020

Coleman hasn’t played a regular-season game since 2017 and was on the weekly inactive list in 2018, his first year with the Niners. But it’s important to note he does have a full season’s worth of starting games where he served along the right side of Cleveland’s offensive line.

According to Pro Football Focus, Coleman showed a bit more prowess in pass protection that year than in run blocking, earning 64.0 and 57.7 grades in the two respective categories.

Those aren’t tremendous numbers, yet one can imagine Coleman would see an uptick in play with a better O-line in San Francisco.

Plus, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman has a bit more experience than his two primary competitors for a roster spot, Skule and the 2020 rookie, Colton McKivitz.

Why Shon Coleman regresses with 49ers in 2020

Coleman not seeing a regular-season snap since 2017 can’t help his chances of making the Niners roster, and one can see the 49ers bringing him back for another campaign is merely to bolster camp depth and add competition.

Plus, looking back at that 2017 campaign, Coleman was flagged with 10 penalties on the year, including seven holding calls, which were surely part of the reason why the Browns were willing to part ways with their third-round pick from the 2016 draft.

On top of that, the 49ers will have much more interest developing their own younger players, Skule and McKivitz, rather than banking on Coleman finally hitting a nice stride. This could ultimately lead to the veteran seeing more third- and perhaps fourth-string snaps during training camp, which could be costly.

Chances of Shon Coleman making the 53-man roster

Well, they’re pretty slim at best right now, considering the aforementioned circumstances, including salary.

Yet Coleman’s own situation from last year could affect other areas of the O-line, which is the prime reason why the 49ers brought him back as an injury reserve. While it’s impossible to predict such things, they are a reality in camp and the preseason, and the Niners will want to guard against that.

An injury to Skule, McKivitz or Brunskill could open up the door for Coleman to secure a roster spot even if it’s not the ideal scenario for San Francisco.

If the team remains mostly healthy up front, though, Coleman will have to vastly outperform at least two of those three players to make the cut.

Next. Predicting 49ers offensive line depth chart to start 2020. dark

Should that not happen, however, Coleman would likely be on the outs and would have spent two-plus seasons with the team without having seen the field in a meaningful game.