The San Francisco 49ers find themselves in uncharted territory. Just one year ago, the team’s offensive line was arguably the team’s weakest link. Fast forward to today, and it is clearly the team’s strongest unit on the offensive side of the ball.
Many factors have contributed to the team’s recent success. A new scheme under HC Chip Kelly, the free-agent addition of OG Zane Beadles, and the first-round draft selection of OG Joshua Garnett have all contributed to the team’s quick turnaround.
Chopped it up w/#49ers T Anthony Davis the other day before a pickup game of basketball and he’s looking in great shape. He’s coming back.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) March 9, 2016
However, no addition has been more beneficial than the return of 2010 first-round pick (No.11) RT Anthony Davis. A player who I have been in consistent dialogue with throughout the off-season, as I would play pickup basketball games with the athletic offensive tackle, Davis told me he would return to the field in 2016.
A year ago the #49ers OL was a weakness. A year later, it’s a strength. Anthony Davis back is HUGE. Drafting Garnett was HUGE. Beadles solid
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 16, 2016
Fast forward to today, and that has become a reality. Davis, who has been the “other” bookend tackle alongside Pro Bowl LT Joe Staley since entering the league in 2010, has been one of the few constants along the team’s offensive line. Subtract the 2015 season of course, where Davis abruptly retired, it appears the year off has only helped his body recover to full-strength, as he already looks in football shape.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) January 22, 2016
But questions have been raised as to where Davis would play. The emergence of behemoth second-year RT Trent Brown has posed a dilemma according to some NFL analysts. At 6-8, 355, Brown is easily the largest player on the team while also showing signs of life, as a serviceable right tackle. But Davis also plays right tackle, so where does he fit in?
Some suggest he should kick inside to right guard as Kelly will roll with the best five players, allowing Brown to maintain his role as the team’s right tackle. Not so fast my friend (Lee Corso voice).
Below are five reasons why I believe this would be a bad move from not only a personnel standpoint but also a business one. After all, the NFL is a business.
- The 49ers signed LG Zane Beadles, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be the Week 1 starter next to Staley. I’ve been watching him closely since signing with the team, and I would consider him and Staley best friends just like OG Adam Snyder was during his eight seasons in San Francisco. That may not seem like much, but after hearing Staley continuing to praise Beadles on film-room study, while the two being at the hip should be a sign that it’s Beadles’ job to lose. Not to mention, the two have built strong rapport/communication together, I can’t help but think the left-side is set in stone to kickoff the 2016 season.
— Oscar (@BetterRivals) August 16, 2016
- While Beadles is thriving on the left side, OG Andrew Tiller continues to win the coaching staff over with his consistent, reliable ways. From throwing pancake blocks during games to not missing an assignment, Tiller continues to be a pleasant surprise since coming to San Francisco from the Green Bay Packers, as a practice squad player. Hard to imagine a rookie offensive guard taking over Tiller’s role, especially the way he’s been playing.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) May 7, 2016
- Speaking of the rookie first-round pick (No. 28), OG Joshua Garnett has shown Pro Bowl potential. A savvy football player with the physical skills to match, Garnett will likely start the 2016 season as the team’s swing OG backup. Not a knock on him, as Garnett should see starter reps at some point, I just don’t see that happening soon, as the 49ers need to keep their quarterback clean. What kind of confidence hit would Garnett take if the team moved Davis to guard? He would question the team’s faith in him as he would be buried on the depth-chart. A rookie first-round pick doesn’t need that type of pressure, which is another reason why I believe Davis will be kept outside.
Davis Athleticism/Quick Feet
- I would argue that Davis is more athletic than Staley. Yes, you heard that right. In my opinion, Davis is more athletic than Staley. So what does that have to do with playing tackle? Everything. You need to be able to have the quick feet to kick-slide while maintaining proper pass-sets. Davis is one of the most athletically gifted tackles, and it would be a waste of his athleticism to kick him into guard. How many 6-5, 323, offensive lineman can dunk a basketball? Davis checks that box. I spoke with 49ers strength coach Mark Uyeyama and the first thing he praises about Davis is his quick-twitch muscles. Under the ZBS it’s imperative that all offensive lineman can hit second-level with ease and Davis does that far better than Brown.
- If Davis plays guard, his NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus will probably not be a happy camper. In the NFL, tackles are more valuable than guards, and pay coincides with the position. As a result, it’s hard for me to believe that Davis would play anything other than right tackle. 49ers HC Chip Kelly echoed that Davis is strictly a tackle, “We haven’t had any discussions about that right now [moving to Guard]. A.D.’s just getting solid at the tackle [right] spot. And, again, we just played our first preseason game, so we’ve got a lot of ways to go.” No doubt, Davis and Rosenhaus both want a long-term deal and being moved to guard would greatly affect Davis’ market value from a business standpoint.
Right Tackle Depth
- Unlike the depth at OG, the OT spot is not as strong. To put that in perspective, if Davis kicks inside to RG and Brown starts at RT- Who would be the backup if Brown goes down to injury and they decide to keep Davis at RG? The answer is RT Erik Pears. We all know where this leads which is yet another reason why I strongly believe Davis will be kept at RT.
- Whomever is behind center needs to play with a clean pocket. Whether that’s QB Blaine Gabbert or QB Colin Kaepernick. By going with a reliable veteran like Davis over Brown, will provide not only a security blanket for a new offensive scheme, but a veteran presence that either one of the two quarterbacks can solely place their trust especially when dropping back.
Do you agree or nah? Start the discussion, Forever Faithful! Leave your facebook comments below!