49ers O-line under more pressure with Weston Richburg on PUP

Weston Richburg #58 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Weston Richburg #58 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The 49ers look as if they’ll start the regular season without Weston Richburg, meaning the offensive line won’t be quite as potent to begin 2020.

The San Francisco 49ers endured a great deal of attrition along their offensive line over the course of 2019, and one of the key injuries this unit dealt with was losing veteran center Weston Richburg to a torn patellar tendon back in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints.

Richburg would miss the rest of the season, forcing backup lineman Ben Garland to remain the team’s starting center for the rest of the year and throughout the playoffs.

Garland was initially tabbed as the first-team option in training camp back in 2019, as Richburg was recovering from both back and knee injuries. But Richburg was able to return in time for the regular season.

And despite Richburg previously thinking he’d be back in time for training camp this year, it appears as if him starting the regular season on the physically unable-to-perform list is much more likely, according to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (h/t Niners Nation).

Barrows reported Richburg’s recovery has gone slower than anticipated, putting him in danger of missing the start of the regular season in September.

Richburg is currently on the PUP list. If he’s still there by the time the regular season rolls around, he wouldn’t be allowed to suit up or practice for the first six weeks of the season. Once that period rolls around, the Niners would then have an additional five weeks to determine whether or not Richburg could be activated or placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Likely 49ers O-line configuration without Weston Richburg

Garland is the favorite to start in place of Richburg, should the latter not be ready to go by Week 1.

The former was serviceable enough during his stretch of starts. But there’s a notable downgrade, at least according to Pro Football Focus, who awarded Garland a 59.1 overall grade compared to Richburg’s 62.5 mark and notable 75.1 pass-blocking grade.

Yet Garland was already a likely addition to the 53-man roster, predicated on his role last season. What Richburg’s potential absence means is San Francisco will likely have another roster spot to open up. Second-year pro Ross Reynolds, who was on the practice squad a year ago, could find himself promoted and secure one of the interior backup spots.

It could also mean the 49ers keep both guards, Daniel Brunskill and Tom Compton, instead of just the particular winner between these two for the starting right guard position.

Brunskill, Compton and Reynolds could all play center, too, in case Garland suffers an injury of his own.

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Ideally, of course, the Niners wouldn’t have been in a situation with Richburg out for the long term.

Yet this is why quality backups are important, and San Francisco will bank on its depth along the O-line once more.