49ers roster: Mike McGlinchey has to bounce back in 2021

San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (69) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (69) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

A disappointing 2020 campaign is putting a lot of pressure on 49ers tackle Mike McGlinchey to turn things around heading into 2021.

While the San Francisco 49ers‘ offensive line in 2020 had plenty of problems, few individual players bore the brunt of scrutiny more than right tackle Mike McGlinchey.

The 2018 first-round NFL Draft pick out of Notre Dame did manage to do one thing the bulk of his linemates didn’t: start all 16 games. Yet some fairly wondered if the Niners may have been better off with one of their reserves starting in McGlinchey’s stead.

At least in terms of pass protection.

McGlinchey Games Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 7/6/2021.

Run blocking has long since been McGlinchey’s strength and was a key reason San Francisco swapped out its former starting right tackle, Trent Brown, for McGlinchey back in 2018 and made him an immediate starter.

The pass blocking, though, wasn’t pretty.

Entering year four of his professional career, McGlinchey now faces a bounce-back effort that’ll ultimately determine whether or not he’ll play into the team’s long-term plans even though it committed to him through 2022.

Why Mike McGlinchey improves with 49ers in 2021

Two key figures help describe McGlinchey’s third year at the pro level.

Pro Football Focus, which graded McGlinchey at 79.6 overall, admitted a wide gap between his run-support skills and pass-blocking efforts with 91.3 and 58.3 grades, respectively.

Quite the contrast.

And when McGlinchey looked bad, he looked awful, even prompting one 49ers beat writer to create the following video of the right tackle struggling in pass protection:

It’s one thing to cherrypick a handful of bad plays (and McGlinchey had his fair share), but the more important part will be how McGlinchey handles both the criticism and makes an effort to improve.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan effectively called upon McGlinchey to do this last December (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area):

"Any coach or any coordinator, any play-caller, any players in the limelight, like it’s going to happen. I don’t care how good you are. It’s how you react to that. That’s why I think it’s a good thing for Mike to go through that stuff because I think it can make him stronger.He’s made of the right stuff. He’s a good football player. He’s going to have a great career and I plan on it being here and I hope he takes it the right way and it makes him a better player next year for it."

McGlinchey also apparently added weight to the offseason in an attempt to make him less susceptible to power moves and bull rushes, which were more than evidently a problem by viewing the above video.

On top of that, the Niners hope to have solidified the O-line during the offseason by adding two new players to McGlinchey’s immediate left, center Alex Mack and right guard Aaron Banks, which should offset the revolving door San Francisco had here a year ago.

Now at 26 years old, it’s time for McGlinchey to put all of that together.

Why Mike McGlinchey regresses with 49ers in 2021

With three years under his belt, time is running out for McGlinchey to tap into his “potential” or whatever other evaluation criteria analysts and fans use to analyze younger players.

It’s possible McGlinchey simply “is who he is,” which is a quality run blocker but someone who’ll be inconsistent, at best, in pass protection. And at the worst, a liability in pass sets. PFF gave McGlinchey a 70.5 pass-blocking grade back in 2019, so what happened last year isn’t an automatic indicator of what’s to come.

Read More: Mike McGlinchey will be under a microscope in 2021

That said, 2019 could have been somewhat of an outlier, too, and there’s equally as good a chance McGlinchey’s pass protection doesn’t get better heading into 2021.

Especially with a rookie at right guard, Banks, who’ll have his own struggles that’ll possibly affect McGlinchey’s own efforts this upcoming season.

Projected role, impact with 49ers this season and beyond

Whatever the criticisms may be about McGlinchey, he’s going to be San Francisco’s starting right guard heading into 2021 and 2022.

Wise move or not, the 49ers picked up McGlinchey’s fully guaranteed fifth-year option for 2022, which will cost approximately $10.88 million, according to Over the Cap.

Either the Niners front office is horridly not smart, or it feels McGlinchey can and will play at a much higher level and be far more consistent over the next two seasons.

Upgrading other areas of the O-line could work in McGlinchey’s favor, though. Remember, O-lines typically take the longest time to jell as a unit, especially in Shanahan’s complex outside-zone blocking system. McGlinchey didn’t have the benefit of a steady face at right guard next to him, so one could safely make the argument some consistency there would help in 2021.

But the real crux of the question comes with McGlinchey’s future, especially after 2022, and whether or not San Francisco has to start thinking about a replacement or is comfortable inking him to a new contract.

Good thing, perhaps, the 49ers have two more years to make that determination.

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