The jump from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL can be a significant one. Rookies spend so much of the offseason focusing on pre-draft workouts and combine numbers that there's not much energy left to spend preparing for football. Second year players, on the other hand, get to spend their offseason on their team's official training program.
Couple that with in-game experience as rookies, and NFL sophomores have the potential to make great strides. San Francisco 49ers guard Joshua Garnett is a prime example of a player who could break out in 2017. That's what Garnett's former college coach David Shaw indicated in a recent phone interview with 49ers.com.
The lineman played in 15 games and made 11 starts as a rookie in 2016.
"I thought it was typical," Shaw said in his evaluation of Garnett's first professional season. "It's a different world between college and the NFL on the line of scrimmage. It's night and day. There's an adjustment period, no matter how good you are.
"There were plays where Josh looked really good and plays where he had a tough time. I think as the season progressed, he looked like an NFL lineman."
Adding to Garnett's transition was a change in position. He played predominantly at left guard at Stanford and was moved to right guard with the 49ers. It's yet to be seen where he'll play under San Francisco's new coaching staff, but Shaw explained it won't matter to Garnett.
"I think Josh is in a great place physically, mentally and emotionally," the coach said. "I think he's a good fit for what the offense is going to become with Coach (Kyle) Shanahan. I'm excited. I don't think it's going to be too far down the road where Josh is one of those guys who we're talking about going to the Pro Bowl."
Good, bad or indifferent, there's no replacing in-game reps, and Garnett is sure to benefit from all the playing time he received as a rookie.
"The biggest thing is experience. Part of experience is getting beat. Part of experience is falling down and making mistakes and learning from all of it. You saw that late in the year where Josh was no longer a fish out of water. He is talented, physical and confident. He knows that. He knows he can be really good at this level. He's approached this offseason to get in the best shape and come in with a great mentality.
"Joshua is growing. He's got all the tools, and he's got the chance to be really good for a long time."
The 49ers have the potential to start the same offensive line as they did last year. From left to right, that would be Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore, Joshua Garnett and Trent Brown. The veteran additions of Jeremy Zuttah and Garry Gilliam add healthy competition into the mix. Still, Garnett will have ample opportunity to earn a starting spot come Week 1.