• Akash Anavarathan

49ers' Training Camp Primer: Can OT Trent Williams step in and fill Joe Staley's void?

This is Part Two of an eight-part preview to the 49ers' 2020 campaign, breaking down all of their position groups heading into training camp. Each day, I will focus on a different group, analyzing their 2019 performance and laying out expectations for this upcoming season.

Day 3 of the NFL Draft is normally supposed to be the time that teams add depth to their roster, attempting to find a diamond in the rough. In the 49ers' case, they chose to trade for All-Pro offensive tackle Trent Williams, subsequently announcing the retirement of tackle Joe Staley.

San Francisco's front office seamlessly replaced -- rather upgraded -- the left tackle position with one swift trade, while reuniting a disgruntled Williams with the offensive genius that drafted him.

The 49ers project to have two new starters along the offensive line, at left tackle and right guard. While they were an above average run-blocking line, they certainly struggled protecting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the passing game and will look to improve that in 2020.

Can Trent Williams be an upgrade to Joe Staley?

The former first-round pick joins forces with Kyle Shanahan again after playing with him in Washington for a few seasons. The 32-year old comes to San Francisco in a contract year and will look to play at an All-Pro level again, after sitting out last season due to disputes with the organization.

He will attempt to replace a beloved franchise player in Joe Staley, who chose to retire due to deteriorating health issues. While Staley finished the season strong, the veteran battled multiple injuries in the early part of his season which really limited his abilities.

Williams is known for his freak athleticism, which was on full display this offseason as he was working out in Houston with the likes of Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon and Deebo Samuel. That ridiculous size and strength will fit right into Shanahan's zone-based running scheme, where Williams can get out to the edges quickly.

I fully expect Williams to return to his All-Pro -- at least Pro-Bowl -- form and protect Garoppolo's blind side this season. Whether or not he returns to San Francisco in 2021 remains to be seen.

Who will start at Right Guard?

The only real position battle along the offensive line is for the right guard position, vacated by Mike Person. After struggling in the Super Bowl against Chris Jones, the 49ers decided they had seen enough and released Person this offseason.

So who are the candidates to replace him?

Former AAF star Dan Brunskill, who was a Swiss-army knife for Shanahan along the offensive line, plugging any vacancy that came up during the season. He played a pair of games at right guard, struggling against Aaron Donald and the Rams, but bouncing back against the Seahawks in Week 17.

The 49ers also drafted rookie Colton McKivitz, who actually hasn't played much guard, but would certainly compete at the spot. The former West Virginia lineman was seen to be another athletic player, who didn't give up a sack during his senior season. While it'll be difficult for him to grab the starting spot this offseason given the limited time in the building, he slots in as a nice depth piece.

The last potential starter is former Falcons' lineman Tom Compton, who crossed paths with Shanahan during their time together in Atlanta. Compton has bounced around since then, playing for the Jets this past season. Compton turned down other competitive deals in order to come join forces with Shanahan and the 49ers, but I think he loses the starting spot to Brunskill, who will ultimately grab the spot because of familiarity with the playbook.

Which offensive linemen will make the 49ers' roster?

The 49ers have historically kept eight linemen in the Shanahan-Lynch era and I would expect the same when they choose their 53 players for the roster this season.

The advantage they have this season is being able to carry an additional two offensive linemen on the game-day roster.

That being said, I expect the 49ers to carry: Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey, Weston Richburg, Laken Tomlinson, Ben Garland, Dan Brunskill, Tom Compton and Colton McKivitz.

That gives them the ability to carry five starters and their next best three offensive linemen in Garland, Compton and McKivitz.

Akash Anavarathan covers the 49ers for Fourth and Nine. Follow him at Twitter @akashanav.

Graphic via Dillon Hiser.


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