49ers

Staley: 49ers RT Brown could be one of best in NFL history

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Staley: 49ers RT Brown could be one of best in NFL history

SANTA CLARA – Enormous. Colossal. Mountainous. Brobdingnagian.

There are an endless number of words that describe how 6 foot 8, 355-pound Trent Brown stands out even among a group of unusually large men like the 49ers offensive line.

But nobody could have guessed the three words offensive line coach Pat Flaherty blurted out in practice that would become the right tackle’s nickname: Big Soup Bone.

It’s unusual, for sure, but the linemen have fun with it. At least one of them foresees a time when Brown is called three other words: greatest lineman ever.

“I don’t throw this around lightly, he can be as good as anyone in the NFL that’s ever been,” left tackle Joe Staley said from in front of his locker this week. “You see him and you think Jonathan Ogden, the plays that he would make when he was playing. He’s got a ways to go before he’s there, but he has all the talent to be Jonathan Ogden-esque.”

It is high praise, comparing a second-year player with only two NFL starts to a Hall of Famer, especially coming from a five-time Pro Bowler. Brown spent the offseason enhancing his natural talents of big body power and speed with improved conditioning, footwork and technique. Staley is just one of many in Santa Clara who noticed the results.

“For being that big and being able to run the way he can, it’s impressive,” quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "The way he’s approached the summer program, coming into training camp, the first two preseason games have been tremendous. He’s been playing his tail off, and he’s such a young player, he’s only going to continue to get better.”

“I think Trent is realizing his abilities and understanding how successful he can be at this game,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “From a coach standpoint, it’s awesome to see.”

Anthony Davis’ move to right guard in practices suggests Brown has secured the starting right tackle position heading into the third preseason game. Davis has said he suggested the switch even though his 71 career starts have all come at right tackle.

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“He gives me pointers all the time. I just listen,” Brown said. “This is the same guy a year ago I was looking forward to playing behind and getting tips from, so he’s here now, and he sees something in me, so I’m just trying to get better everyday and listen to him.”

Staley remembers a practice last week against Denver where on a backside play, Brown took the linebacker 10 yards downfield and then threw him. Staley cannot remember a play where Brown has been beaten one-on-one in pass rush. For Brown to take that next step in becoming one of the game’s top linemen, Staley says he must learn how to do those things consistently.

“[It] can’t just be when he feels like it, when he’s feeling good. It’s got to be third quarter when we’re on a 10-play drive. He’s got to be able to go the same on that 10-play drive as he did on the second play of the game,” Staley said.

“If he doesn’t take that step he has no one to blame but himself. He’s incredibly talented. Pretty excited to see where his career goes.”

As for Brown, the 23-year-old is pretty excited about where his young career is at the moment.

“I’m having as much fun right now as I’ve ever had playing football,” Brown said. “I haven’t really had fun playing football since I left junior college.”

Big Soup Bone. Maybe that nickname does make sense for Brown. They both need to simmer awhile in order to release their full flavor.

49ers GM John Lynch praises Ben Garland's contributions on, off field

49ers GM John Lynch praises Ben Garland's contributions on, off field

49ers general manager John Lynch praised the on- and off-field contributions of offensive lineman Ben Garland while announcing the official signing of a one-year contract.

The sides agreed to the deal at the beginning of free agency, Garland announced on social media earlier this month. After the deal was signed, the 49ers made the announcement on Saturday.

"Ben stepped in at a critical point in our season last year and did a great job," Lynch said in a statement.

"He is a versatile interior lineman who battles every play and gives you everything he has. Off the field, Ben is one of the most active NFL players in the community and we are privileged to have him representing the 49ers and the Bay Area."

[RELATED: 49ers Mailbag: Do 49ers approach draft as if Joe Staley won't return?]

Garland, who turns 32 next month, started the final three regular season games and all three postseason games for the 49ers last season after Weston Richburg sustained a season-ending knee injury. He entered the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

Garland is a six-year NFL veteran from Air Force whose football career was delayed for two years while he completed his military commitment. He still serves in the National Guard during the NFL offseason.

49ers mailbag: Do 49ers approach draft as if Joe Staley won't return?

49ers mailbag: Do 49ers approach draft as if Joe Staley won't return?

The NFL offseason continues on ... sort of.

And the questions continue, too.

Thanks to all the folks who submitted their questions via Twitter for this edition of 49ers Mailbag.

General manager John Lynch seemed confident Joe Staley would be back for at least another season when he was asked last month about the six-time Pro Bowl left tackle.

I don’t know that Staley has told the team, definitively, he plans to return. Staley, who turns 36 in August, dealt with more physical issues last season than at any point in his 13-year career. Perhaps he just wants to take some time to see how his body feels later in the offseason.

The 49ers certainly would want clarity on Staley’s status before the draft. And it’s also likely they would not want word to get out before the draft because they would love for other teams to be in the dark whether left tackle is or is not a high draft priority for them.

Mike McGlinchey appears locked into right tackle, and there does not seem to be a plan to move him to the other side to ultimately replace Staley.

On the depth chart, the 49ers re-signed Shon Coleman. Justin Skule also returns after starting eight games with mixed results.

If the top available player on the 49ers’ board at any point is an offensive tackle, I think that’s the way they would go.

Weston Richburg is clearly the team’s top option at center. But after he underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in December, Ben Garland stepped in and played well enough to keep the offense rolling.

If Richburg is healthy, it’s his job. Until then, the 49ers have to feel confident Garland can keep things afloat.

Like most positions, it’s personal preference.

The Raiders also figure to be in the market for a wide receiver with the No. 12 pick. If the 49ers have one receiver ranked far above the rest, and Las Vegas takes that player, then the 49ers could look to trade back or go with a different position.

For a breakdown of the top three wide receivers, see above video.

If everyone comes back healthy, the 49ers have quite a few options at wide receiver. Of course, none of them really are proven.

I agree the 49ers must look to strengthen their cornerback position. And looking a year in advance, there is no guarantee Richard Sherman will be back in 2021. And, even for the 2020 season, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon are the only other corners with starting experience on the roster.

Cornerback is a priority, especially because the trade of DeForest Buckner likely means the pass rush will not be as dominant.

I doubt the 49ers will sign a starting-caliber defensive tackle at this stage of free agency. Maybe they bring in a player who has a chance to compete for a spot in the D-line rotation, but I doubt it.

I believe the trade of Buckner was all about the contract they were going to have to give him to keep him, as well as the draft pick there were able to pick up in a trade.

Solomon Thomas is under contract for just one more season. They certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas, but that does not mean he is gone after this season. The 49ers could look to sign Thomas to a minimum-type contract next year, and he might be willing to accept such a deal.

Buckner rarely came off the field during his four seasons with the club. Now, the 49ers must incorporate more of a rotation to take strain off Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa. That rotation should include Thomas, Dee Ford, D.J. Jones, Ronald Blair, Jullian Taylor, Kentavius Street and, perhaps, a draft pick.

Dang, you’re making me think with this question. How dare you!

I don’t believe it signals a shift, per se. The 49ers’ stated goal is to be a contender every season. The trade was not done for the benefit it provides the team this season as much as what it will do two, three, four years down the road.

That said, Kyle Shanahan never felt like the 49ers’ offense last season was an unstoppable force – at least, not like he felt with Atlanta during the 2016 season. Still, the 49ers were fourth in the NFL in total yards and No. 2 in scoring.

So maybe the 49ers’ offensive production last season proved to Shanahan that it can become a dominant force in 2020 with some specific upgrades, such as a wider variety of third-down options.

[RELATEDThree key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins]

I was shocked last month when Shanahan said, definitively, the 49ers would not release Marquise Goodwin. Of course, I can understand why he would say that. The 49ers want to see if they can trade him.

But with this draft class, I have a difficult time believing any team would surrender a draft pick and pay Goodwin $4.5 million for the upcoming season in salary and bonuses.

Let’s put it this way: I’d be surprised if Goodwin is on the field the next time the 49ers are able to get together on the field.

The NFL has put together guidelines leading up to the draft to level the playing field. General manager John Lynch said on Friday that there will be “no excuses.” I don’t know if the 49ers have an advantage over the other teams in the league, but they certainly have no disadvantage when it comes to technology.

Where the 49ers could have an advantage over some teams is that Lynch and Shanahan work well together, so the communication between the personnel department and coaching staff is very good. Not all teams are like that.

The NFL has to be planning for everything at this stage. Is it possible, under the right circumstances, that games could be played without crowds? TV ratings would be astronomical. But I’m just spit-balling. I have no idea.

What I wonder about is when it will be safe to gather in large crowds. Hopefully, the actions taken by mayors and governors will slow the spread of COVID-19. And, hopefully, we start to see a flattening of the curve within a month.

But if a vaccine is still a year or more away, does that mean we risk outbreaks that compromise our healthcare system until that point? I have no idea.