2017 has been the “Season of Change” for the San Francisco 49ers. Niners Live brings you an assessment of how the change affected the offensive line during the 2017 season.
Forty-Niners C.E.O Jed York kicked off the “Season of Change” when he made the unprecedented move to sign a rookie general manager and a rookie head coach, in the same season, to six-year deals.
General Manager John Lynch proceeded to turn over the roster through the off-season and into the season’s trade deadline, where he found the team’s starting quarterback for 2018 and beyond. For quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to remain healthy and successful, Lynch is going to have to continue to upgrade this team, specifically the offensive line.
Coming into the 2017 season, Lynch found a few players to try and push the unit. While the guard positions found two new starters for 2017, the center and both tackle spots remained unchanged, until in-season injuries forced a change from Trent Brown at right tackle. Therefore the season ended with the following players starting across the line (from left to right), Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Daniel Kilgore, Brandon Fusco, and Zane Beadles. Let’s take a look at the line and see how they performed.
2017 Performance Evaluation
The common theme throughout the season was the lack of protection the line provided for 49er quarterbacks. This theme provided a two-week excuse for Brian Hoyer at the beginning of the season, and laid the groundwork for C.J. Beathard’s legacy for being tough as nails.
At the tackle positions, the strong play of left tackle Joe Staley (who made Pro Football Focus NFL All-Pro 2nd-Team ) and right tackle Trent Brown provided stability in pass protection. Brown gave up only one sack, although he only played 10 games due to a shoulder surgery that caused him to be put on Injured Reserve. Staley gave up four sacks over 15 games, missing one game to a broken orbital bone.
A combination of Eric Magnuson and Zane Beadles filled in as replacements for Brown. Magnusson, who was signed as a rookie undrafted free agent from Michigan, surrendered three sacks in the four games he played, before going on IR. Two of his three sacks came after being hurt, but toughing it out to finish the game before going on injured reserve. Beadles, who played in all 16 games and substituted at both guard and tackle, gave up three sacks as well.
Pressure up the middle was an issue all season as the combination of Kilgore, Fusco, and Tomlinson gave up a total of 16 sacks, with Fusco and Tomlinson giving up six each.
Another issue for this offensive line throughout the season was penalties. Trent Brown led the offensive line with seven penalties. Fusco and Tomlinson each had five, Kilgore four and Staley three. The timing of these penalties was extremely harmful, as many occurred in the red zone.
So What Did It Mean
A strong effort didn’t amount to much productivity. While this unit fought hard all season, an upgrade is going to be needed if Jimmy Garoppolo is to survive the 2018 season. Change has been the theme of this team since the hiring of Lynch and Shanahan. Change along this offensive line needs to be a high priority this off-season if the positive momentum gained from the season-ending, the five-game winning streak is to carry over to 2018.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Edward Erving Staff Writer @NinersLive.net and Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims