SANTA CLARA – A year ago, the 49ers’ offensive line was one of the most-glaring weaknesses on the team.
And although the 49ers’ offense still ranks an unsightly 29th overall in total offensive yards, the line might have been the least of the team’s concerns this season. The run game ranked fourth in the NFL, and the quarterbacks have generally had enough time in the pocket to get rid of the ball in the passing game.
“I think the guys have done a great job of developing,” 49ers veteran left tackle Joe Staley said. “To use Trent (Brown) as an example, last year really not playing up to his potential and working hard in the offseason and then coming here and playing a full 16-game season. . . The last two games have been two of his best.
“Hopefully, we all stay together and add a couple of pieces here and there and continue to develop.”
Brown started 14 games at right tackle. Although he did not carry over the promise of training camp into emerging as one of the top offensive linemen in the league, Brown showed he is capable of being a quality starter in the NFL for a long time.
He started at left tackle Saturday in place of Staley in the 49ers’ 22-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams and allowed just one quarterback hurry in the game. Brown, who is listed at 6 foot 8, 355 pounds, demonstrated he can handle protecting the blind side of the quarterback. But it is not expected to be a long-term move with plenty of good football ahead of Staley.
“We have a left tackle right now,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. "So maybe down the road. That’s way down the road, I think.”
A seventh-round draft pick in 2015, Brown said he has made his biggest improvements with his footwork and in recognizing the adjustments that are required based on the play call and the pre-snap look of the defense.
“There’s more out there for me,” Brown said. “I’m pretty pleased with my performance this year, it being my first full season as a starter. Next year, I’ll know even more what to prepare for. I know how to take care of my body better. Next year I feel like it’ll be a big year for me.
“I feel like I’m noticing stuff a lot better, as far as the looks on defense. I can call stuff out. I can see something and I know what’s happening, and I can adjust at the line. So, yeah, I feel like I’m only going to get better, as long as I keep working with Joe and listening to him. I’ll be on his level.”
So when does Brown believe he’ll be ready to take over for Staley at left tackle?
“I think it all depends on when he’s ready to give it to me,” he answered.