SANTA CLARA – The one veteran free agent the 49ers signed in the offseason is giving the organization what it had envisioned.
Zane Beadles started the 49ers’ first 12 games at left guard after signing a three-year contract worth approximately $10 million. Last week, he shifted to left tackle to take over for Joe Staley, who is expected miss his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury. The 49ers (1-12) face the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
“I think Zane’s done a nice job all year long for us,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “We’re real happy with getting a veteran like him. I think he’s seen a lot of things. He’s an emergency center for us. He can play all three positions across the offensive line. He’s been asked to play two so far.
“He’s played guard and played tackle. So, I thought he did a good job in the Jets game. Obviously, we’ve got another big challenge this week going up against the front that we’re going to face in the Falcons. But I was happy with where Zane was last week.”
Beadles played three years at left tackle during his college career at Utah. But until he started last week’s game in place of Staley, he had not lined up at left tackle at any point in his seven-year NFL career.
“It’s not the easies situation to be thrown into, but we get paid to play multiple positions,” Beadles said. “In the NFL, you dress seven offensive linemen on game day and you have to be able to play multiple positions, even if you’re a starter.”
Beadles had not played a position other than guard since 2010 with the Denver Broncos. He played right tackle for three games as a rookie.
“Tackle and guard are two different positions,” Beadles said. “There are plusses and minuses and things that are easier about one and harder about another, and vice versa. It’s a switch in mentality, as far as knowing you have a little bit more space to cover and different type of guy you’re going against. “
The challenge gets a lot more difficult on Sunday, as Beadles must contend with a noisy environment at the Georgia Dome while facing one of the all-time best sack artists on artificial surface.
Dwight Freeney, who ranks 17th all-time with 122.5 sacks in 15 NFL seasons, has been selected to seven Pro Bowls and has a wide array of pass-rush moves he can unveil on Sunday. Beadles could also go up against Vic Beasley, who has 13.5 sacks and is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
“It’s not going to be an easy test, but it’s a test and we have to go out there and do our best,” Beadles said.