4 reasons why 49ers are Super Bowl contenders in 2021

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Jimmy Garoppolo, Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) with offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 1: An improved 49ers offensive line will make all the difference

Old-school football take here. But raise your hand if you feel a team might highlight its quarterback, but the true success will fall upon the shoulders of its offensive line.

Left tackle Trent Williams had to be the only reason why Pro Football Focus ranked San Francisco’s O-line ninth best in the league last year.

While PFF has its merits and clout, that ranking might be an example of why their evaluation criteria shouldn’t be treated as gospel. Outside of Williams and to a lesser extent, left guard Laken Tomlinson, the 49ers O-line in 2020 was problematic with revolving doors at center and right guard, going along with poor pass-blocking play from right tackle Mike McGlinchey.

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McGlinchey added weight during the offseason to bounce back in that facet, while the Niners signed a six-time Pro Bowl center in Alex Mack, giving them the opportunity to move the versatile Daniel Brunskill over to right guard where he played exponentially better last year before moving to center.

Mack’s presence, Brunskill’s move and the addition of two rookie linemen in this year’s NFL Draft should solidify this unit, beefing up the depth and guarding against all those pass-rushing woes that culminated in 39 sacks allowed –12th most last season — a year ago.

Factoring in quarterback play, namely with Jimmy Garoppolo, an improved pass-protecting O-line should help boost his confidence.

Or if it’s Trey Lance under center, his rookie maturation will be a lot easier if he’s well protected, potentially to the point where he can help engineer a San Francisco bid for a Super Bowl berth.

If we’re being optimistic, at least.

Next. 4 rookies who have impressed the most during 49ers training camp. dark