49ers camp: Is offensive line depth emerging as a problem?

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

One of the recent developments from 49ers training camp is an underperforming second-string offensive line, which hopefully won’t carry over into Week 1.

The San Francisco 49ers were supposed to have solved their offensive line woes during the offseason, namely by re-signing left tackle Trent Williams, inking veteran center Alex Mack and then using two NFL Draft picks on rookies, Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore, in Rounds 2 and 5, respectively.

The hope was to guard against and prevent the injury attrition that took place a year ago. And while the starting cast sure seems OK enough heading into the final days of training camp and ahead of the preseason, there have been some serious concerns about the second-string unit.

Niner Noise’s good friend, Sports Illustrated’s Jose Sanchez, was on hand for San Francisco’s Wednesday camp practice at Levi’s Stadium, and his review of the backup O-line wasn’t overly endorsing:

"It is time for [Trey] Lance to FINALLY get first-team reps. Not just because he has earned it after endless impressive looks against the backup defenders, but because there cannot be a face value evaluation with the putrid second unit offensive line. They are abysmal and I think I am being too nice with that. If it wasn’t for Lance’s mobility, he would not have lasted today. I am sure he took on at least six sacks today. The guy just didn’t have much of a chance.So the fact he was able to operate an okay performance behind that offensive line is indicative of the talent he has."

Taking Lance out of the equation for a moment (more on him later), it is important to at least acknowledge the reality of the 49ers hopefully not needing too many of their reserve linemen this season. Perhaps a player or two at various moments who can fill in when necessary. But that’s it.


The Niners just released their unofficial depth chart ahead of their Week 1 preseason bout against the Kansas City Chiefs. And while this is far from locked in stone, it does give the breakdown of who’s seeing the most snaps with the second-stringers:

  • LT: Jaylon Moore
  • LG: Colton McKivitz
  • C: Jake Brendel
  • RG: Aaron Banks
  • RT: Tom Compton

Moore and Banks are the names to watch the most here, given they’re first-year players and only starting their NFL-level development.

Banks, in particular, was pegged as a possible starting candidate at right guard. But by nearly every account, he has yet to show the ability to overtake the presumed starter, Daniel Brunskill.

Compton, Brendel and McKivitz are squarely on the roster bubble.

Could 49ers make some O-line moves before Week 1

There’s inevitably going to be some flurry with transactions across the league as teams look to cut their rosters down from the 90-man training camp groups to 53 players. And unlike last year when teams could go from 90 straight to 53, the cut-down stage will be done in phases amid the preseason.

The three-game exhibition phase should give San Francisco a solid chance to evaluate some back-of-the-roster possibilities, and there will likely be at least a few notable cuts the 49ers may potentially target as new-found free agents or waiver-wire adds.

If there’s one thing for certain, the Niners should at least be concerned here.

49ers hindering Trey Lance’s development?

Another point Sanchez made was how a lackluster second-string O-line was preventing Lance from having the kind of protection that would otherwise be afforded to him if he was behind the first-stringers.

True, there are some benefits to Lance seeing NFL-level pressure, but it’s equally beneficial to allow him to fully function behind an O-line that is properly providing him protection. That way, Lance can observe how his receivers’ routes are developing, what defensive backs are doing and the general timeliness of pocket presence.

It’s hard to master all of that when Lance is regularly under pressure.

At this point, the Niners know what they have with their presumed starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. His eventual long-term fate far from certain, Garoppolo nevertheless isn’t going to show anything new to head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.

Lance, however, needs to showcase the highest level of upside while operating with the first-team unit outside of the occasional zone-read plays he’s gotten with the starters.

Not only would that open up the next phase of Lance’s development, but it would also afford San Francisco some additional evidence in its decision on when to move on from Garoppolo.

Either way, the reserve O-line is looking like a potential issue even if the 49ers hope the backups won’t be called upon to contribute much this season.

Next. 49ers' 4 biggest losers from Week 1 of training camp. dark