Why Compton and Long are Key to Brunskill's Development
With both rookie minicamps and the preseason canceled, NFL teams might lean toward experience, rather than upside this season. At least for the start.
Rookies and those switching positions have almost no time to familiarize themselves with the speed, knowledge and communication necessary to succeed in the NFL. While they’re thrown into the fire, trying to acclimate themselves, veterans can take advantage and seize opportunities.
This is why veteran backups have seen their importance sky rocket, and why San Francisco’s signings of both Tom Compton and Spencer Long will have a role to play this season.
Prior to Covid-19, second-year Daniel Brunskill would have gotten plenty of preseason snaps at right guard to aid his transition from tackle. But without much-needed practice, Brunskill has had less time to adjust to his new position. He goes from clear front-runner to being in the thick of a position battle with Compton and Long.
On a team that’s so reliant on offensive line cohesion, the 49ers could opt to ease Brunskill into his new role while utilizing Compton or Long at the beginning.
This isn’t to say either are better than Brunskill. The former undrafted free agent and AAF tackle fought his way onto the 49ers roster, becoming a key reserve.
He filled in for the injured Mike McGlinchey (right tackle) and Mike Person (right guard). At right tackle, Brunskill was an unsung hero in the team’s Super Bowl campaign. At right guard, he faltered against the Rams’ five-time All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (who didn’t?). Yet, he rebounded in the Week 17 pressure-filled Seattle win.
Neither Compton (34 career starts), nor Long (44 career starts) have the ceiling Brunskill showed last season. What they do have, however, is extensive experience on the interior offensive line.
The 49ers don’t have the luxury of preseason to further test Brunskill's right guard capability. If right guard proves too tall a task for him, the win-now 49ers have the non-flashy Compton or Long to slide in.
In addition to the right guard competition, center is a major question mark. Weston Richburg is recovering from a torn patella tendon and likely won’t be ready for Week 1.
Ben Garland (13 career starts) would then begin the season as the starting center, but having a veteran backup like Long is huge.
Long and Compton are by no means long-term answers on the line. Brunskill has a lot of potential and is easily among the top-five linemen on the roster. But in a season where there’s so much uncertainty, the 49ers might lean in favor of the more stable, yet lower potential of Long or Compton.
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