As the San Francisco 49ers prepare to take the field against the Carolina Panthers in Week 5, Jimmy Garoppolo was asked about how the offensive line has been able to maintain composure and get better despite having switched left tackle for two-straight weeks and counting. Though the group remained a work-in-progress, the veteran quarterback has noticed improved overall production from his offensive line from Week 2 to Week 3, and so Garoppolo agreed with the sentiment and expanded on it.
“Yeah,” Garoppolo replied. “I think it really starts during the week of practice, you notice it. The walkthroughs, the communication; you know, if we’re all on the same page we can make it work, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but those guys, especially with the injuries, the mixes and matches that was going on, it’s really impressive for a group of five guys like that to be on the same page and do it as consistently against a good D line. I tip my hat to those guys, they did a great job and we need to keep this thing rolling into next week.”
Spencer Burford Isn’t Your Typical San Francisco 49ers Rookie
Focusing in on right guard Spencer Burford, Garoppolo complemented his immediate ability to contribute as a rookie.
“Spence is cool man,” Garoppolo said. “He’s real cool; very smooth, he doesn’t really get too panicked, I mean, for a rookie, it’s very impressive, you don’t see too many rooks like that, he is. You know, he’s got a long way to go, obviously, we all do, but he’s off to a good start.”
After starting off the season strong, Burford’s production has dropped off a tad over the past few weeks, with his overall offensive grade (52.1) now ranking 55th out of 71 qualifying guards, according to Pro Football Focus. Still, the Niners’ offensive line ranks eight against the pass according to PFF, thanks in no small part to Burford’s 63.6 pass-blocking grade – good for the 34th-ranked mark among 69 guards – so his presence is a vital cog in the offense’s cohesion.
Jake Brendell’s Chemistry With Garoppolo Will Only Grow
“It’s been a good start,” Garoppolo said. “Jake’s a good dude, he’s on his stuff, man, he really is. He’s always getting us in the right stuff, making communication, I mean, it starts with the center, and that’s not an easy job so. But, I don’t know, we’ve got a ways to go, I think our relationship is only getting better and better, you know, we’re only getting this thing started.”
Though PFF doesn’t keep track of how well a center is able to get players into the right protections, as things presently stand, Brendel ranks 32 among 36 qualifying centers in offensive grade and ranks below average in both pass blocking and run blocking grades. With three penalties surrenders on 250 snaps, Brendel is clearly still working some things out, as Garoppolo suggested.
Aaron Brooks Is A Different Animal In Year 2
And to round out the interior offensive linemen trifecta, Garoppolo was asked about Aaron Banks, the second-year lineman out of UTEP who received some criticism for failing to log a single offensive snap as a rookie.
“I’ve seen a different side of Banks,” Garoppolo asserted. “When you’re a rookie and you aren’t playing you see one side of guys, and now that he’s playing, he’s a different animal. And he’s been playing like it, he’s been playing good, same as Spence, he’s got a long way to go and everything but he’s off to a good start and on game day, he’s a different dude, man. A guy you’d like on your side for sure, and it’s just, it’s fun to have him on our side. He’s a character.”
Returning to PFF once more, Banks is the highest-graded performer of the bunch. He ranks 15th among all guard in offensive grade at 69.4 and boasts a 71.5 pass-blocking grade and a 65.3 run-blocking grade that rank 21st and 20th among all guards in the NFL, respectably. After failing to do much as a rookie, the Notre Dame product has looked like he’s going to be a serious part of the 49ers’ offense for quite some time.