Weston Richburg

49ers roster analysis: Offensive line in good shape for immediate future

49ers roster analysis: Offensive line in good shape for immediate future

This is the fifth installment of a 10-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ offensive line.

Under contract (signed through)

-Joe Staley (2021)
-Mike McGlinchey (2021)
-Weston Richburg (2022)
-Laken Tomlinson (2021)
-Mike Person (2021)
-Justin Skule (2022)
-Ross Reynolds (2021)
-Kofi Amichia (2021)
-Jaryd Jones-Smith (2021)
-Jake Brendel (2020)
-Leonard Wester (2020)

Staley signed a two-year extension with the 49ers in June to push his contract through the 2021 season. He is at the stage of his career – and his life – that he must evaluate after every season whether he wants to continue to play football. He missed nine regular-season games due to injuries, but Staley played at a high level at the end of the regular season and throughout the postseason.

Richburg, who finished the season on injured reserve with a torn patellar tendon, restructured his contract late in the season to save the 49ers approximately $4.5 million in cap space for 2020.

Expiring contracts

-Ben Garland (UFA)
-Shon Coleman (UFA)
-Daniel Brunskill (EFA)
-Andrew Lauderdale (EFA)

Garland should be a low-cost option to return to the team as an insurance policy behind Richburg. He held his own for the final month of the regular season and into the playoffs as the starting center.

Coleman, acquired from the Cleveland Browns in an August 2018 trade, entered training camp as the swing tackle. He sustained a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle in the first preseason game and went on season-ending injured reserve. He could be back on a minimum-level contract.

Brunskill, who has no outside negotiating rights as an exclusive-rights free agent, will certainly be back on the team in 2020.

What needs to happen

If everything remains the same, the 49ers are in good shape with the offensive line and can look to devote resources in other directions. All of their starters -- and seven of their top eight -- remain under club control for the upcoming season.

Staley continues to be the most important piece of the line. He is signed for two more seasons, and the 49ers would love for him to continue to play at a high level through the completion of his contract. But the 49ers have to keep an eye toward the future and prepare for the time when Staley is no longer on the team.

Richburg is returning from a severe knee injury. He again will miss the offseason program but expects to be ready for training camp, which opens in late-July.

It never is a bad idea to bring in young players who have a chance to compete for spots or, at least, develop for the future. But the offensive line did an outstanding job in run-blocking and pass protection for an offense that ranked second in the NFL at 29.9 points per game and fourth at 381.1 yards per game.

[RELATED: Signing George Kittle to new contract top focus]

Expectations

The expectation: Staley and McGlinchey at the tackle positions; Richburg at center; Tomlinson and Person at the guard spots.

The wild card is Brunskill. Wherever the 49ers put him, he stepped in and did a fine job. He saw significant time at right tackle, left tackle and right guard while starting seven games. He started the final two games of the regular season at right guard when Person was out with a neck condition. Offensive line coach John Benton half-jokingly referred to Brunskill as the team MVP.

Brunskill has put himself in position to compete for a starting job with Person. If he is not a starter, Brunskill could take on a role as the sixth man on the offensive line. (He even saw some work in practices at center after Richburg’s injury.)

Skule, who replaced Staley for six snaps in the Super Bowl, proved he can be a competent backup. Garland and Coleman could also return to compete for backup roles.

The 49ers do not have many draft picks, and they do not appear to be inclined to use a valued pick on an offensive lineman. Shanahan believes the club does not need to do anything dramatic with the personnel on the line to cope with such dominant defensive tackles as Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald and Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs. Shanahan intimated a lot falls on the structure of the offense to scheme around such players.

“I don't care what guard you have in this league, when you have a guard one-on-one with a player like that,” Shanahan said. “It's about five at the most in this league that are like that. Those guys are real tough to handle. That's why you’ve got to be balanced and mix stuff up.”

49ers' Weston Richburg already excited to get back to work for 2020

49ers' Weston Richburg already excited to get back to work for 2020

SANTA CLARA -- While the 49ers' offseason just began following their Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Weston Richburg has been itching to get back on the field for some time. 

The veteran center was having a phenomenal 2019 campaign after undergoing offseason surgery on his left quadriceps. But his season ended prematurely in Week 14 when Richburg tore his patellar tendon in the 49ers' win over the New Orleans Saints.

Richburg will spend two weeks at home in Texas with his family before heading back to Santa Clara to spend the remainder of the offseason working with the 49ers medical staff rehabbing and preparing for the 2020 season.

“Should be back in training camp,” Richburg told NBC Sports Bay Area on the team’s locker cleanout day. “I’ll miss the offseason stuff but training camp should be a go.” 

The 49ers’ loss in Super Bowl LIV still stings for Richburg, even though he watched it from afar. He remains positive about the outlook for the team, noting that the turnaround from a 4-12 season to getting to the Super Bowl is something to be proud of. 

Richburg believes that since most of the team will return for the 2020 season, the 49ers have a good chance of building on their success from 2019. Richburg believes in the locker room culture and is confident the 49ers will stay close because of the job that coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have done.  

“It’s great,” Richburg said. “That’s what’s cool about this place, from top to bottom, everybody is real genuine and good. They are no blowing smoke, they are going to tell you how it is.”  

Richburg also shared how challenging it was to watch the 49ers' postseason run. Prior to the kick-off of every game, he still had pregame nerves as if he was suiting up to play. 

While sitting out had its own set of challenges, Richburg remains confident that everything happens for a reason.

“It sucks but I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t make mistakes so I have to trust in that,” Richburg said. “It really is what it is, the situation. Got to make the best of it.”

[RELATED: How Buckner, Kittle impact 49ers' free-agency plans]

Richburg now is ready to turn the page, looking ahead to 2020 with enthusiasm. 

“I’m pumped,” Richburg said. “I’m fixing to go lift right now. That’s all I do.” 

49ers' injuries continue to pile up as NFL playoffs rapidly approach

49ers' injuries continue to pile up as NFL playoffs rapidly approach

SANTA CLARA -- Three front-line starters who have contributed to the 49ers’ 11-2 start have been lost for the remainder of the season.

And the club is expected to be without two other starters and at least two other rotational players for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi’s Stadium.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said on a Thursday appearance on KNBR 680 that nose tackle D.J. Jones will be going on season-ending injured reserve. The 49ers are likely to activate defensive lineman Kentavius Street off injured reserve to take Jones’ spot on the team’s 53-man roster.

The 49ers have three games remaining in the regular season before heading into the playoffs, and they will have to rely on their depth to get through a time when their depth chart is being tested.

Cornerback K'Waun Williams did not practice on Thursday as he is working through the concussion protocol, but he has a chance to be able to play Sunday.

Here’s a look at the 49ers players who are not expected to play Sunday but could be available at some point before the end of the regular season and playoffs:

CB Richard Sherman

Cornerback Richard Sherman strained his right hamstring in the 49ers’ win in New Orleans. Shanahan said on KNBR that Sherman will not play against the Falcons. Sherman appeared to be striding well in rehab work on the practice field Thursday and said he expects to miss only one game. Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley will be the 49ers’ starting cornerbacks against Atlanta.

SS Jaquiski Tartt

Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt will miss his second consecutive game due to fractured ribs, Shanahan said on KNBR. The target for Tartt to return, if needed, is Week 17 against the Seattle Seahawks. Second-year player Marcell Harris will make his second start in place of Tartt.

DE Dee Ford

The 49ers want Ford to be ready for the playoffs after returning too soon from quadricep and hamstring injuries. Ford missed two games with the injury, then aggravated the condition while playing just four snaps against New Orleans. Ford is tied for third on the team with 6.5 sacks. The 49ers hope to achieve a first-round bye in the playoffs to buy him another week of rehab.

DT Jullian Taylor

Defensive tackle Jullian Taylor sustained ligament damage to his right elbow in the Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens. He will not be available to play Sunday at Levi’s Stadium but could be back as early as Week 16 against the Los Angeles Rams -- if he is needed. He should be OK for the playoffs.

* * *

Here is the list of players who have seen action in more than a handful of games during the regular season who have been placed on season-ending injured reserve:

NT D.J. Jones

The loss of nose tackle Jones, who is ticketed to IR, is a big blow to the club. Jones started all 11 games in which he appeared and had turned into a force in the middle of the 49ers’ defensive line. He sustained a significant high-ankle sprain in the win over the Saints. Sheldon Day, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are among the players who can see action at nose tackle.

LB Kwon Alexander

Linebacker Kwon Alexander was placed on IR on Nov. 5 after tearing a pectoral. He underwent season-ending surgery. Alexander started the first eight games of the season and recorded 34 tackles, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Rookie Dre Greenlaw has taken over at his position.

C Weston Richburg

Center Weston Richburg sustained a torn patellar tendon in his right knee on Sunday in New Orleans. He started the first 13 games of the season and was playing at a high level in both the run game and in pass protection. Veteran Ben Garland will take over as the team’s starting center.

DL Ronald Blair

Ronald Blair played in the first nine games of the season and was filling a significant role as a rotational edge rusher in nickel situations. He had three sacks on the season before sustaining an injury on Nov. 11 while chasing down Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Blair was the team’s third defensive end in their sub package behind Nick Bosa and Ford.

TE Garrett Celek

Tight end Garrett Celek went on IR after aggravating the back injury that required offseason surgery. He did not look healthy upon his return to action on Nov. 11 after missing the first eight games while on the physically-unable-to-perform list and had zero pass receptions in his five games. Rookie Daniel Helm was added to the roster, joining other tight ends George Kittle, Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo.

WR Marquise Goodwin

Marquise Goodwin went on IR this week with foot and knee issues. Goodwin had fallen out of the team’s receiver rotation after posting just 12 receptions for 186 yards with one touchdown in nine games. He started the team’s first six games of the season. The 49ers re-signed Jordan Matthews to be the team's sixth wide receiver.

* * *

Here are the other 49ers on injured reserve:

DE Damontre Moore: He appeared in two games before sustaining a fractured forearm. The 49ers signed him Nov. 13 to replace Blair.

WR Trent Taylor: Had foot surgery in August and experienced complications to prevent his return this season.

WR Jalen Hurd: Third-round pick who caught two TD passes in his only preseason game before experiencing a stress reaction in his back and setbacks throughout the season.

RB Jerick McKinnon: He missed his second consecutive season due to knee issues resulting from a torn ACL in training camp of 2018.

CB Jason Verrett: He appeared in one game before going on IR on Oct. 3 due to a knee issue.

OT Shon Coleman: He sustained a fractured fibula and dislocated right ankle in the exhibition opener.

CB Tim Harris: A seventh-round draft pick, Harris went on IR due to a groin injury.

WR Shawn Poindexter: The 49ers placed the undrafted rookie from Arizona on IR on Aug. 22 with a torn ACL.

OL Andrew Lauderdale: The 49ers placed him on IR on Sept. 1.