With the start of training camp now less than two weeks away, this is the perfect time to take a look at every player on the San Francisco 49ers roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp. Today we will wrap up the offensive side of the ball by taking a look at the tackles.
Despite a few struggles early on -- to be expected considering he didn’t play in 2019 and team offseason activities didn’t begin until training camp last season -- the veteran made the transition from Joe Staley seamless.
Williams started 14 games and often showed off his athleticism by getting downfield for blocks in space, along with the power to move defensive linemen in the trenches. In addition to his prowess in the run game, Williams was stellar in pass protection, allowing only four sacks. All of this led to Williams being named to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time in the past nine years.
This offseason, the 49ers made Williams the highest paid left tackle in NFL history when they gave him a new six-year contract worth up to $138.06 million.
McGlinchey drew the ire of 49ers fans on nearly a weekly basis in 2020. While he continued to be an above average run blocker, his already questionable ability as a pass protector took a sharp decline. McGlinchey’s struggles were particularly glaring when asked to protect for a straight drop back. In these situations, it wasn’t uncommon to see the pass rusher get into McGlinchey’s chest on a bull rush and drive him into the lap of the quarterback, or get to his outside shoulder and run around him for a pressure or sack.
How does McGlinchey improve? He played at around 295 pounds in 2020, much slighter than in years past. The lack of team activities and being able to work with the 49ers trainers may have something to do with that. This offseason, McGlinchey put an emphasis on bulking up, and was able to add roughly 15 pounds to his frame.
Now it is up to McGlinchey to get with the 49ers offensive line coaches Chris Foerster and Butch Barry to work on his technique. Far too often you will see McGlinchey fail to use his hands to keep the rusher from getting into his body, and since he’s usually playing too high by that point he ends up with no leverage and can be pushed back like a blocking sled.
McKivitz was selected in the fifth round of the 2020 draft and made three starts, all at right guard, including a Week 12 victory over the Rams. Making his first career start against Aaron Donald, McKivitz had rough go of it, but that should be expected. McKivitz recounted his first start in an interview with Seth Staskey of the Martins Ferry Times Leader following the season, “Lining up against Aaron Donald was an eye-opening experience,” McKivitz revealed. “That was definitely being thrown into the fire, but that’s what the NFL is. The thing is while no other team may have Aaron Donald, they have guys a lot like him. That was really my most ‘I’m in the NFL moment.'”
McKivitz would fare better in his next start against Washington, and follow that up with another solid performance in the season finale against Seattle.
A third round selection of the Cleveland Browns in 2016, Coleman was acquired from Cleveland for a seventh round draft pick during the late stages of training camp in 2018. Coleman was expected to be the swing tackle but with Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey staying healthy, he was never called upon. In 2019 the expectation was again for Coleman to be the swing tackle, but he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula during the first preseason game and was lost for the season. Coleman would then opt out of the 2020 season.
The 2019 sixth round selection was set to battle McKivitz and Coleman for the swing tackle position this season, however he suffered a torn ACL in his knee during OTAs and will spend this season on injured reserve.
There won’t be any changes to the top of the depth chart. Barring injury, Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey will be the starting tackles.
The real battle in training camp will be to identify the swing tackle. Involved in this position battle will be Colton McKivitz, Shon Coleman, Daniel Brunskill and Jaylon Moore.
Colton McKivitz has the versatility to play either guard or tackle and has displayed that in college and the NFL. While the first three starts of his career came at right guard, McKivitz played both left and right tackle during his time at West Virginia.
The primary competition will likely come from Jaylon Moore. The rookie spent the last three years playing tackle at Western Michigan. While he is ultimately projected to become a guard, he displays the type of versatility the 49ers look for in their backup offensive linemen. The only question here is whether the organization will want him to focus on one position to get his feet wet.
Don’t completely rule out Daniel Brunskill or Shon Coleman. Brunskill showed the ability to play tackle when he stepped in for Mike McGlinchey for four starts during the 2019 season. The only question for Brunskill being in this competition is that he is currently the backup at center.
Having missed all of 2019 due to injury and then opting out of 2020, Coleman may face an uphill battle to secure a spot on the active roster this season.