SANTA CLARA – Joe Staley invited 49ers teammate Justin Skule over to his South Bay home before the rookie made his first NFL start.
Skule has received advice and words of encouragement from Staley, a six-time Pro Bowl left tackle. And Mike McGlinchey, the team’s starting right tackle, had some cogent words for Skule, too, as the 49ers prepare to face the Cleveland Browns on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium.
“I don’t think you want to psyche yourself out,” Skule said. “That’s something Mike McGlinchey said to me.”
That advice is especially relevant this week with Skule likely to line up directly against Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, for the majority of Monday's game. Garrett broke out with 13.5 sacks last season. He is off to a great start this season with six sacks this season in four games.
“Myles Garrett, his name carries some weight,” Skule said. “And he (McGlinchey) said you can’t worry about the name on the back of the jersey. Every player is a good player in this league, and so you can’t psyche yourself out for who you’re going against.
“Myles Garrett is a phenomenal player, but you play phenomenal players every week, so I don’t know that I’d do anything different. Just prepare as much as I can and get ready to play.”
Skule held his own against Pittsburgh edge rusher Bud Dupree two weeks ago in his first NFL start in place of Staley, who was expected to miss six to eight weeks with a fractured fibula in his left leg. But Garrett offers a completely different challenge.
“He’s a special player just from a talent standpoint and he’s getting better at football every single day,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I watched him a lot in college, watched him a little bit last year and then watched him a ton over the last week. He’s exactly what I think everyone thought he was going to be.”
The 49ers owned the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft. The club had Garrett rated as the best prospect. The Browns selected Garrett. And after trading back one spot, the 49ers selected defensive lineman Solomon Thomas at No. 3 overall.
Garrett has not been a disappointment as the top overall pick.
“Just to have that size and fluidity and how he can move with his hips and arms,” Shanahan said. “I think he’d be very good at any sport he’d want to play. When you have the athletic ability to play basketball, but you have the physicality to play football, it’s guys who are just tough guys to block.”
Coming off the bye week, Shanahan has been afforded extra time to come up with a plan to contend with Garrett. There will be times when Skule will have to block Garrett straight-up, but there are a lot of ways in which they can provide help for him within the 49ers’ offensive system.
“It’s on your mind on every play,” Shanahan said. “When you’re talking about the type of rushers you’re mentioning, it doesn’t matter. They are going to get guys no matter who it is if you become one dimensional or give them too many opportunities.
“So you’ve got to help out anybody in this situation, but especially a rookie in his second game. It’ll be more of a challenge. Everyone will be watching, but he’s a guy who as I’ve said doesn’t change at all. He won’t be out there doing it on his own.”