Andrew Tiller Praises Blaine Gabbert, Shaun Draughn for Helping O-line

The San Francisco 49ers have given up four sacks in their last three games.

That's a considerable improvement after the offensive line surrendered 28 sacks in the first eight games of the year.

On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals brought down Blaine Gabbert twice in a 19-13 road victory. Both sacks were critical plays. A first-quarter blitz forced the 49ers to punt after the offense drove down to Arizona's 29-yard line.

In the fourth quarter, Tony Jefferson's third-down sack accounted for a 10-yard loss. San Francisco was ultimately unable to convert a 4th-and-20 to prolong its final drive of the afternoon.

Still, Andrew Tiller said he's seen growth from the offensive line, including in his own performance.

Coming out of college, the Syracuse product was known for his run-blocking ability. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, but he never stuck on the 53-man roster. Following his time in New Orleans, Tiller spent time on practice squads for the San Diego Chargers, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco from 2013-15.

"When things don't happen as planned, you've just got to keep on working," the third-year guard said on Monday. "It just happened eventually. Now I'm starting."

Tiller has started the past two games at right guard. He said he wasn't discouraged when he began this season on San Francisco's practice squad. He credited weight loss to helping his improved foot speed, which has translated to better pass-blocking.

Now that he's able to showcase quickness to compliment his powerful upper-body strength, Tiller has been a regular in the starting lineup. He spent Week 5-9 rotating with Jordan Devey at the right guard position.

After a month of searching for the best five-man combination, San Francisco did not make any in-game adjustments to its offensive line against the Cardinals.

"I feel like we're improving every week, but we've just got to keep on improving," Tiller said. "We gave up two sacks yesterday, a couple of hits. We made some strides, but we're still not where we need to be yet."

In particular, Tiller said Gabbert's quick decision-making has helped the offensive line's pass protection. It was especially critical against Arizona's aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme. According to Pro Football Focus, Arizona blitzed Gabbert on 27 of his 39 pass attempts.

"We knew coming into the game they would give us different exotic looks at what not," Tiller said. "We did a pretty good job picking it up."

In addition to Gabbert's quick throws, Tiller complimented running back Shaun Draughn for his role in picking up blitzes.

"He just sticks his face up in there," the guard said. "He doesn't care who is blitzing. He's going to put his hat in there and pick up that block."

Tiller offered several more compliments on Draughn, who has rushed for 146 yards and has 113 receiving yards since the 49ers signed him on Nov. 2.

"Shaun runs hard," Tiller said. "I like Shaun back there. He's a good back. I feel like he's getting into a groove. He's got our trust up front."

Draughn has filled in admirably for Pierre Garçon, who has missed the team's last four games due to an injured left foot. It's not known if Hyde will be healthy enough to play in the final five games of the regular season. But with Draughn's production and versatility, the late-season signing has given San Francisco a dependable runner in the ground game.

When asked about Draughn's unique journey to the 49ers roster, Tiller was candid in his response.

"I didn't know he's been on eight different teams, but he's been a good 'back," Tiller said. "A lot of different teams passed up on him, but that's their loss."

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