49ers still not solving O-line problems

If the 49ers are going to have any chance Sunday in Seattle, they're going to have to find a semblance of consistency along the offensive line.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst hasn't shut the door on right guard Jordan Devey just yet.

Chryst indicated Thursday the starting right guard position remains up for grabs, despite former practice squad player Andrew Tiller playing 73 percent of the snaps in the 49ers' last game, their one-point win over Atlanta, where Blaine Gabbert went the entire day without getting sacked.

Devey started the game, as he has each week this season, but only played nine snaps before giving way to Tiller, who has been the better player since getting promoted to the roster Oct. 10, a day before his debut against the New York Giants.

"(Tiller) and Jordan are battling it out, literally, every day, in terms of getting reps and making something, getting the most out of those reps," Chryst said. "So, we’ll see really on the practice field, it doesn’t look that much different than weeks past in terms of both those guys being in there."

The 49ers' offensive line has struggled all season, both in pass protection and in the running game. Perhaps continuity is the issue, as Devey was added from New England and named a starter during the final week of the preseason. Then, that starting offensive line was given the last exhibition game off, taking away one last chance to build cohesion before the games started to count.

Talent is also a core issue. Of course, former first-round picks Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are no longer with the team. Additionally, last year's starting center Daniel Kilgore resumed practice this week, forcing second-year player Marcus Martin to start, who has graded out as Pro Football Focus' worst starting center.

The rotation at right guard is approaching its sixth game, for reasons Chryst has not made entirely clear. And that rotation saw a new wrinkle in the win over Atlanta, with right tackle Erik Pears getting a shot to play right guard, allowing rookie seventh-round pick Trenton Brown to make his debut playing right tackle.

The question becomes, was that move a product of Chryst wanting to see Brown at tackle or Pears at guard?

"I would say it's a combination of both," Chryst said. "Getting young guys to play and then a swing guy like Erik going from tackle to guard helps us down the road."

Entering Week 11, the season is already pretty far down the road, and the 49ers are facing their toughest task of the year Sunday: a trip to play the Seahawks in CenturyLink Field. It seems a little late in the process to continue experimenting.

Awaiting San Francisco are defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who combined for five of Seattle's six sacks of Colin Kaepernick Oct. 22. The 49ers are unlikely to face pass rusher Bruce Irvin, who is dealing with an MCL sprain.

If the 49ers are going to salvage their season, it's going to start with improved play along the offensive line. But if the rotating continues Sunday and beyond, it's hard to envision that group settling into a grove.

To borrow a terrible cliche about quarterbacks: if you have two, you don't have one. For the 49ers, and their last-ranked offense, that applies to their rotation at right guard.


Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.

E-mail Niners Digest: NinersDigest@gmail.com

Get updates from Niners Digest by following here and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and analysis.

Niners Digest Top Stories