Each week leading up to the start of training camp, 49ers.com will assess the team's roster as we get closer to the season. In this installment of the 2022 training camp preview, we will take a look at the offensive line and how the team will address the position group's restructuring.
The San Francisco 49ers 2022 offensive line will feature new faces after losing Pro Bowlers Laken Tomlinson (signed with New York Jets in Free Agency) and Alex Mack (retired).
After Mack announced his retirement in June, discussion sparked on who would will in at center for the upcoming season. Possible contenders to take the spot after Mack's departure include seasoned players such as Jake Brendel, Daniel Brunskill and Keaton Sutherland as well as rookies like Dohnovan West and Nick Zakelj.
"We had a lot of confidence in (Brendel) last year to make the team," head coach Kyle Shanahan said during the team's mandatory minicamp practice. "If Mack would have ever missed a game, we wouldn't have hesitated and we would have gone into that game very confident with (Brendel)… We don't want to make a big thing and go chase stuff, especially with a player that we've had in here who has done a good job and he's shown us that he can do it.
"We also have guys like Brunskill who's done it before and I think we have some young guys who can do it… We have to work them hard throughout OTAs, throughout training camp and we'll come up with the best guy and then you'll see how long he can do it over the year."
Fifth-year veteran Mike McGlinchey and All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams make an elite tackle duo on the offensive line heading into the 2022 season, leaving all eyes pointing towards the 49ers interior to see who will step up and make the starting line.
The team's recent additions of rookie linemen like Spencer Burford, Jason Poe, Zakelj and West serve to add even more competition against returnees like Justin Skule, Colton McKivitz, Aaron Banks and Brunskill for the interior of the O-line between training camp and the start of the regular season.
- Aaron Banks (2nd Season)
- Jake Brendel (6th Season)
- Daniel Brunskill (4th Season)
- Spencer Burford (1st Season)
- Alfredo Gutierrez (2nd Season)
- Mike McGlinchey (5th Season)
- Colton McKivitz (3rd Season)
- Jaylon Moore (2nd Season)
- Jason Poe (1st Season)
- Sam Schlueter (1st Season)
- Justin Skule (4th Season)
- Keaton Sutherland (3rd Season)
- Dohnovan West (1st Season)
- Trent Williams (12th Season)
- Nick Zakelj (1st Season)
The 49ers finished the 2021 season in the top three of the final Pro Football Focus NFL offensive line rankings.
The ranking headlined Williams who finished the year with the best PFF grade in the NFL at any position. The 98.3 grade is the highest single-season grade the pro football analytics site has ever given to an offensive lineman— the next best marks belonging to Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Joe Thomas
The 49ers 2021 offensive line featured Williams at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, Mack at center, Brunskill at right guard, McGlinchey at right tackle with Tom Compton stepping in when McGlinchey was injured for the team's final nine games.
All five of the 49ers offensive line starters earned overall grades of 62.2 or higher.
Offensive Line Breakdown
As the No. 48 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, Banks now enters his second year with the 49ers. In his rookie season, Banks saw action in ten games (including postseason) on special teams.
With left guard Laken Tomlinson's departure from San Francisco in free agency, there's an opportunity for Banks to step up on the left side of the offensive line – a position of his experience. During his collegiate career at Notre Dame, Banks started all of his final 31 contests at left guard.
In March, Brendel signed a one-year extension through the 2022 season with the 49ers. The offensive lineman originally signed with San Francisco as a free agent in 2020. After opting out of the 2020 season, Brendel appeared in 16 regular season games and all three postseason games for the 49ers in 2021.
Heading into training camp, Brendel is a contender to take over the center position following Mack's retirement.
"He's wired to execute difficult blocks in a run scheme and it's about staying healthy and being able to adjust each week to some of the guys you have to go against," Shanahan said during the team's mandatory minicamp practices. "That comes with some experience, but I think he's ready for his opportunity and he's getting a chance to compete with some guys and hopefully by getting that and getting those reps, he will only get better."
Brunskill is entering his third year as a full-time starter for the 49ers. Since signing with San Francisco as a free agent in 2019, Brunskill has appeared in 47 games (40 starts) in addition to six postseason contests (three starts) playing in all five spots along the O-line.
In 2021, Brunskill found his fit and started all 17 games at right guard for the 49ers and all three of the team's postseason contests.
Burford was selected by the 49ers in the fourth round (134th overall) of this year's NFL Draft out of the University of Texas-San Antonio.
In 2021, Burford started in all 12 games and helped pave the way for UTSA records in total yards (6,146), passing yards (3,577) and points scored (516).
Last season, the 49ers added Gutierrez as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway program. The program is dedicated to onboarding international players from around the world to gain vital experience in the league.
The undrafted lineman saw some action during the 2021 preseason before he was added to the practice squad.
This year, the 49ers elected to pick up McGlinchey's fifth-year option for the 2022 season. Last year, McGlinchey unfortunately suffered a season-ending quad tear in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals. Since starting his rehabilitation process from his surgery in November, 49ers staff believe McGlinchey is on the right track.
"Mike's doing well," general manager John Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He had a significant surgery to repair that quad tendon, but just as Mike has always done, he attacks everything 100 percent and his rehab is going really well... We're pleased with his progress. We're going to give him the time he needs, so not only that he gets back, but he gets back and is pain-free and can play like we believe he is capable of playing."
According to Pro Football Focus, McGlinchey's pass-blocking grade improved to 70.0 last season before his injury, up significantly from the 58.3 mark the year prior.
McKivitiz was selected by the 49ers in the 5th round (153rd overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The lineman saw action in the final regular season game of 2021 with 70 offensive snaps in a win against a division rival, the Los Angeles Rams. Entering year three, McKivitz could land an opportunity to serve a key role on the 49ers depth chart.
In his 2021 rookie campaign, Moore was active for 145 snaps on the offensive line and 12 on special teams.
He saw his first start in Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts and started in two other contests (Week 9 against the Rams and Week 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars) that both resulted in wins.
In May 2022, Poe agreed to terms with the 49ers to become an undrafted free agent.
Poe appeared in 9 games in two years at Mercer (2020-21). In 2021, the offensive lineman helped pave the way for over 2,000 rushing yards, the third-most registered by a team in the Southern Conference.
"First step off the ball I thought, 'Wow, that's extremely quick,'" offensive tackle Trent Williams said during OTAs. "He has really good footwork and that athleticism from playing football is going to take him a long way, especially in this offense."
Schlueter started all 13 games for Minnesota in 2021 and blocked for an offense that totaled 4,681 yards and averaged 25.46 points per game, earning him an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention.
This offseason, Schlueter agreed to terms with the 49ers to become an undrafted free agent.
Skule is entering his fourth year with the 49ers since being drafted in 2019. This year, Skule will be making his return to action, coming off a torn ACL suffered last offseason that forced him to miss all of 2021.
The lineman has been active in all of the team's offseason training activities and is on track for progressing during this year's training camp.
A veteran addition to the offensive line, Sutherland signed with the 49ers in March to a Reserve/Future contract.
Sutherland originally entered the NFL after signing with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2019. Since entering the league, he has seen action in three games with the Bengals and three more with the Miami Dolphins.
In 2020, West started in four games at left guard for the Sun Devils, receiving First-Team All-Conference honors.
In May, West agreed to terms with the 49ers to become an undrafted free agent.
Williams is coming off of a standout Year 2 in San Francisco, where the left tackle earned his first-career All-Pro honor and was selected to his ninth-career Pro Bowl.
At the close of the regular season, Williams was considered one of the top offensive linemen, if not top player, in the entire NFL in his 12th season. According to PFF, Williams finished the year with an overall grade of 98.3, the highest given to any player in a season, ever.
Zakelj was the first of three sixth-round draft picks (187th overall) selected by the 49ers in this year's draft.
In 2021, he appeared in 5 games (3 starts) and helped Fordham rank 6th in the FCS in yards per game (349.7). In 2019, Zakelj started all 12 games at left tackle and helped block for the Patriot League's top-ranked offense (357.2 yards per game).