49ers Assistant Compliments Key Lineman’s Versatility, Talks Scouting J.J. Watt

Daniel Brunskill, San Francisco 49ers

Getty Daniel Brunskill blocking on a screen for Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers.

When Aaron Banks suffered a knee injury that landed him on the injury report but may not ultimately end the season, it put the San Francisco 49ers in a tough spot. One of the surprise success stories of the 2022 NFL season, Banks was playing at a near-Pro Bowl level, as his 62.7 rating from Pro Football Focus clearly shows, but after playing 98.2% of the team’s snaps through Week 16, Kyle Shanahan and offensive line coach/run game coordinator Chris Foerster would have to turn elsewhere to pick up quality snaps between Trent Williams and Jake Brendel.

Enter Daniel Brunskill, the Niners’ swing lineman who has logged snaps at all five positions across the offensive line over his career. When asked about how many snaps Brunskill earned at left guard before playing 50 in place of Banks in Week 17, Foerster explained to the media that, because the 49ers were rotating players at right guard, the backup snaps weren’t split evenly.

“Not, because if he would have been the swing guard, which he is, but if he literally was not,” Foerster said via 49ers WebZone. “Like, when Spencer was playing full-time at right guard, if they hadn’t been splitting time, Dan would’ve probably gotten probably 16 reps a day at both guards, but because he was splitting time with Spencer, he was probably only getting probably four to five reps a day, so maybe that’s 15 reps in the week, maybe less at left guard.”

“Now Dan’s played both positions. He’s played left tackle, he’s the one guy that can do it, but it’s not easy to all of a sudden go out there and it is a little bit, yes you can brush your teeth with your opposite hand, but it’s not comfortable for the first couple times that you do it. It’s a little bit like that, it’s a little bit backwards for a minute. He luckily has gotten reps at it and did a good job.”

With Brunskill expected to make his second start of the season in the regular season finale, it’s safe to say he’ll earn plenty of looks at left guard during practice.

Daniel Brunskill Was Impactful in the 49ers’ Screen Game

Despite his relative lack of experience at the position, Brunskill was thrust into action at left guard in Week 17 and even played a big role in setting up Christian McCaffrey for a huge 40-yard gain on a screen. When asked about blocking downfield for McCaffrey, Foerster complemented Brunskill’s willingness and ability to make his running back look good in the open field.

“I think when you watch screens, the thing to notice is if the guy that’s catching the screen is way ahead of the offensive lineman, meaning that he’s out here and we’re still back here, that screen is going to have a hard time succeeding, so to get that block when you’re that far away takes a lot of patience by that guy and the lineman has to really go to get that block, which is what happened on that play,” Foerster said.

“Normally, you want to see the back and the guard coming out together and when you see that, that’s like one of the key timing points in the screen because now whoever’s coming to defend the screen, he’s lined up for my big guys because they’re not going to be running around in space all the time. That lines everything up for them, then the back can set the block.”

“When they’re way ahead, like what happened to Dan, he’s just running his butt off to get out there and then just laying out, I credit Dan. One of the few times I hugged a player on the sideline. I hugged Dan when he came over. I thought it was such a good block and a big point in the game and also I thought it was a great effort to get out. It’s what his job is, but it’s not easy. and he did it and he did it well.”

Though only time will tell how much McCaffrey will play in Week 18, if he plays at all, having a guard like Brunskill who can pull and lead block in space is a fine tool to have come playoff time if Banks is unable to play.

Brunskill & Burford Scouted J.J. Watt for the San Francisco 49ers

On a different note, Foerster was asked about which interior offensive lineman was responsible for scouting J.J. Watt in what will be his final regular season game. After relying on Brunskill earlier in the season, Foerster gave the nod to his rookie guard ahead of the regular season finale.

“Well, last time we did it, we had [OL Daniel] Brunskill do it because he’d played against him the most, so instead of giving him to [OL Spencer] Burford or [OL Aaron] Banks, we let Dan kind of set the table as to what you do against the guy,” Foerster said.

“This week, we gave it to Spencer since he’ll be starting exclusively on the right side now. We’ll hear what the takeaway is. We review it later in the week and kind of make sure we solidify a plan for the guy. We watch the tape during the week and J.J. is just a great, impactful player. He makes big plays at critical times in the games– he has through his whole career. It’s hard to believe he’s not going to be playing anymore after this because he’s done such a great job and endured for so long and been such a good player and so impactful.”

Will Brock Purdy be the final quarterback Watt sacks as a pro? Only time will tell, but for the sake of San Francisco fans, let’s hope Burford did a good job with his scouting.

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