2020 is crucial season for 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey

Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Niner Noise’s “Who Is” series explores why 2020 is critical for 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey, particularly his long-term fit with the team.

When the San Francisco 49ers used the No. 9 overall pick on former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey in the 2018 NFL Draft, the long-term thinking was he’d be the heir apparent to the left side of the team’s offensive line, eventually replacing the stalwart, Joe Staley.

Staley’s retirement this offseason, followed by the team’s trade for former Washington Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams, suggested the Niners aren’t quite ready to move the 25-year-old McGlinchey over to protect quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s blind side.

It’s possible this is an indictment against McGlinchey. Or, perhaps, head coach Kyle Shanahan simply wants to keep McGlinchey in a place he can anchor for years to come without having to mirror his pro-level efforts.

Mike McGlinchey Games Table
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Staley’s departure was just one of the key changes San Francisco’s O-line experienced during the offseason. McGlinchey’s former linemate, Mike Person, was released and will be replaced in a starting role by either Daniel Brunskill or Tom Compton, depending who wins that bout in training camp.

As such, especially considering McGlinchey is entering year three, the former first-round draft choice will need to put together the best season of his NFL career.

Not just in terms of the 49ers’ playoff and Super Bowl hopes, but also for McGlinchey’s status with the team in the not-so-distant future.

Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series on 2020 players explores why.

Why Mike McGlinchey improves with 49ers in 2020

Run blocking was McGlinchey’s calling card out of college. Pass protection wasn’t his strong suit.

It appears as if those traits followed him along into the NFL ranks, as McGlinchey was credited with a team-high six sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus, despite appearing in just 12 regular-season games last year.

If there’s a positive here, though, McGlinchey’s pass-blocking PFF grade increased slightly from 64.2 his rookie season to 67.1 last year, so one might assume he’s trending in the right direction in this category.

McGlinchey could receive a slight boost from whoever lines up next to him at guard, too. While Person was serviceable the last two seasons, he was nothing exemplary. Brunskill, meanwhile, posted an impressive 73.0 overall grade on the season, and one could figure his presence to McGlinchey’s left could help out the latter considerably.

Plus, as far as the tackle’s development is concerned, year three is about the time most players hit their stride.

Perhaps 2020 winds up being the year in which McGlinchey breaks out as an upper-echelon tackle.

Why Mike McGlinchey regresses with 49ers in 2020

While it was somewhat reassuring to see McGlinchey’s pass protection improve somewhat last season, the increase appeared to come at the expense of his run-blocking efforts. In 2018, PFF graded him at 81.2 in this category, while 2019 resulted in a noticeably lower 74.9 mark.

It could be indicative of the two additional penalties (seven in total) McGlinchey was hit with over the course of the season. But it’s fair to wonder if McGlinchey changing some technique to hone his pass-blocking skills cut into his abilities as a run blocker a bit.

Over the last two seasons regardless, McGlinchey has surrendered a total of 67 pressures, which isn’t great. It’s very possible this is the kind of result McGlinchey will simply produce on a year-to-year basis.

Plus, while Brunskill looks promising, one can safely wonder if his efforts last year were more of an anomaly than a sign of what’s to come.

If those aren’t great, McGlinchey’s overall impact could take a hit, too.

Mike McGlinchey’s future role with 49ers beyond 2020

There isn’t much doubt about McGlinchey’s status and role for the upcoming season. He’s the starting right tackle and will stay there, barring injury.

Still, Football Outsiders ranked San Francisco’s O-line eighth in run blocking last year but only 15th in pass protection. So there’s room for improvement, and hopefully the Niners made the necessary moves during the offseason.

Things get interesting for McGlinchey in 2021, though, where he’ll enter the fourth year of his rookie deal. The 49ers could opt to either extend the offensive tackle on a new contract or pick up his fifth-year option for 2022.

Or, should McGlinchey suffer a complete meltdown this season, the Niners could ultimately seek some reinforcements via what’s shaping up to be a very deep 2021 NFL Draft class at tackle.

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Either way, McGlinchey will need to improve a bit to ensure his long-term future with the franchise isn’t in doubt. There are certainly signs he can do this, but there are also some small indications he might not live up to being the anchor point San Francisco initially hoped he’d be.