49ers

Daniel Brunskill to step into 49ers' lineup in Mike McGlinchey’s place

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Daniel Brunskill to step into 49ers' lineup in Mike McGlinchey’s place

SANTA CLARA – The road gets a lot more difficult for the 49ers, who sit alone in first place in the NFC West with a 4-0 record.

Not only does the level of competition increase with a trip to face the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, but the 49ers now will be playing without starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who never has missed a game before now due to an injury since he began playing the sport.

The 49ers will start rookie Justin Skule at left tackle in place of six-time Pro Bowl lineman Joe Staley, who continues to recover from a broken left fibula. Now, first-year player Daniel Brunskill is slated to make his first NFL start as he takes over for McGlinchey.

McGlinchey is expected to miss four to six weeks. McGlinchey is scheduled Thursday for arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday.

The 49ers have no plan to make any moves on their 53-man roster as a result of the injuries McGlinchey and fullback Kyle Juszczyk sustained in the team’s 31-3 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. Juszczyk is out four to six weeks with a knee sprain.

Shanahan said the 49ers would be in the market to make a trade to bolster their roster, but there do not appear to be any reasonable trade scenarios for an offensive lineman at this point, he said. Washington team president Bruce Allen said holdout tackle Trent Williams is not on the trade market.

“Things got to be available,” Shanahan said. “You got to be able to make smart decisions. If there were a smart decision out there, we’d definitely look into it. It doesn’t seem like many are available right now.”

Veteran Sam Young will now serve as the 49ers' backup tackle, while Ben Garland will be the backup at the interior positions.

Brunskill, listed at 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, spent the past two seasons on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad after signing as an undrafted rookie from San Diego State. He converted from tight end to the offensive line while in college. Brunskill spent the spring playing for the San Diego Fleet of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.

“That’s how the guys upstairs found him,” Shanahan said. “I didn’t know much about him until he got here in OTAs and training camp. I got to see him then and I became a believer in him.

“He was ‘No. 61’ for a while for me. Then, he became ‘Brunskill’ because he was under the radar when it started out, but he earned his spot on this team. He did a real good job.”

Brunskill now wears No. 60.

Skule is a sixth-round draft pick from Vanderbilt who held up in his first two starts at Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Now, Shanahan and the 49ers must devise a plan to provide as much help as Skule and Brunskill will need Sunday against the Rams.

The 49ers expect Brunskill to step in and not be overwhelmed with the daunting task that awaits him Los Angeles edge rushers Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler.

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In order for the 49ers' offense to make it easier on Brunskill and Skule, they can help themselves out by thriving in the run game and allowing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to use play-action effectively. The 49ers will also likely try to pick their spots with deeper routes with a heavier dose of quick-hitting passes underneath.

“Very similar to Skule, the game’s not too big for him,” Shanahan said. “He’s very efficient. He’s a smart player, and will get the job done and he’ll ready for the challenge on third down.”

How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

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How Patriots trading Jimmy Garoppolo earlier would've affected 49ers

The New England Patriots' ideal Tom Brady successor is the franchise quarterback for Brady's childhood team.

The Patriots dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick in 2017, to coach Bill Belichick's reported chagrin. He envisioned Garoppolo leading the Patriots into another decade of dominance, but owner Robert Kraft ordered Belichick to trade Garoppolo and keep Brady, ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported in 2018.

Neither Brady nor Garoppolo will be in New England when the 2020 season starts, as the former signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (that's still weird to type and say out loud) as a free agent last month. The Patriots' QB depth chart currently consists of Jarrett Stidham and former 49er Brian Hoyer, which doesn't exactly inspire dynasty-building confidence.

That left NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry to wonder if the Patriots would've been better off trading Garoppolo sooner, when then-Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson stopped just shy of holding a neon sign over his head indicating he would trade the No. 12 pick before that year's draft for Garoppolo.

"On its face, making that move made sense for both sides," Perry wrote Friday. "The Browns were desperate for a competent quarterback. They were flush with picks. The Patriots, meanwhile, didn't have a first or a second-rounder that spring. For them, trading Garoppolo with a year left on his contract represented an opportunity to bolster their 2017 rookie haul with a top-15 talent."

The ripple effects, as Perry noted would've been far-reaching.

Jackson would've had his quarterback of the future, and thus the Browns might not have drafted Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall -- or even had the pick -- in 2018. The 49ers, who Kyle Shanahan admitted were focused enough on acquiring Kirk Cousins as a free agent in 2018 that they passed on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, then likely would've gone all-in on Cousins. The Patriots, then, could've drafted Deshaun Watson at No. 12 overall -- the same pick the Houston Texans used after acquiring it from the Browns -- as Brady's successor.

Thankfully for fans sick of New England winning titles, that didn't happen. It's also fair to wonder if any of the teams involved other than the Patriots actually were better off.

Acquiring Garoppolo could've saved Jackson's job in the short-term, but the Browns didn't become a team who failed to meet lofty expectations until after Jackson's firing. The 49ers, had they signed Cousins to the same contract he signed with the Vikings in 2018, would've had more flexibility in the first season but less in the second when compared to Garoppolo's extension. Neither Cousins nor Garoppolo is a clear upgrade over the other, and it's not like you can guarantee Cousins wouldn't have torn his ACL in 2018, either.

[RELATED: Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Hanks at all]

The Patriots can (and surely will) kick themselves all they want for not maximizing Garoppolo's trade return, but the Browns might not view a hypothetical Garoppolo deal with the same regret since that still would've meant not picking Watson.

The 49ers, assuming they still signed Cousins, surely would've been happy either way.

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks

Tight end George Kittle already is the 49ers’ best fifth-round draft pick since 1991.

Kittle has picked up two Pro Bowl selections and a First-Team All-Pro award in his first three NFL seasons. The 49ers have not experienced that kind of success from a player in the fifth round since the selection of defensive back Merton Hanks, a four-time Pro Bowl player and starter on the 49ers’ Super Bowl champion team in the 1994 season.

Kittle, like Hanks, played college ball at Iowa.

“I think that’s a great symmetry,” Hanks said this week on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“The 49ers do pretty well with fifth-round draft picks from the University of Iowa. We tend to knock it out of the park a little bit there.”

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Hanks, who now works as senior associate commissioner of Conference USA, described himself as a first-round talent who fell in the draft due to a bad performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He apparently scared teams with his reported time of 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Kittle had an impressive combine. He had all the measurables, but he did not post great numbers as a pass-catcher during his four-year college career. In 25 games over four seasons, Kittle caught just 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his first 45 regular-season games with the 49ers, Kittle has 216 catches for 2,945 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I can’t say I’m surprised at all,” said Hanks, who referred to Iowa as “Tight Ends U."

[RELATED: How ex-49er Merton Hanks channeled 'Sesame Street' in iconic dance]

Iowa produced two tight ends in the first round of the 2019 draft: T.J. Hockenson, chosen No. 8 overall by the Detroit Lions, and Noah Fant, whom the Denver Broncos picked at No. 20.

“Coach (Kirk) Ferentz had NFL ties," Hanks added. "He understands the NFL game and what tight ends have to do to be successful, not only on the collegiate level, but the NFL level.”