Rejoice, 49ers fans, for football is almost here. We are eight days away from the start of training camp, scheduled to begin Thursday, July 26, marking the beginning of a six-month-plus marathon that spans the NFL season. KNBR will count down the days by highlighting San Francisco’s most important players, from No. 14 to No. 1, accompanied by coach bios for each day preceding camp.
Let’s highlight offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, our eighth-most important 49ers player in the upcoming season.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Mike McGlinchey
When the 49ers selected former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey with the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, many wondered whether they had drafted an immediate contributor. John Lynch had to bite his tongue when he was asked later that night about incumbent starting right tackle Trent Brown’s future with the 49ers.
One day later, Brown was traded to the New England Patriots, paving the way for McGlinchey to start Week 1.
In McGlinchey, the 49ers have a nasty, agile, and dependable force — he started 39 consecutive college games — who is already learning the NFL ropes firsthand from six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley. McGlinchey played both left and right tackle at Notre Dame, which deployed outside zone run schemes similar to Kyle Shanahan’s. Those plays require a certain athleticism and understanding that McGlinchey seems to have already impressed upon the coaching staff.
“Typically, with a rookie now, you’d still be trying to force the playbook down his throat,” offensive line coach John Benton said last month during mini-camp. “(McGlinchey) has digested that very well. We have already moved into some of the detail-phased things. He has fit in with the group well. And he is a hard, hard worker.”
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Benton said McGlinchey has grasped new concepts and applied them on the same day in practice. He scored a 37 on the Wonderlic, tied for the highest of any prospect at the 2018 NFL Combine.
“For a rookie, (he has had) very few mental errors, even technique errors,” Benton said. “It’s impressive.”
McGlinchey was dubbed by many scouts as the 2018 draft’s top tackle prospect. McGlinchey’s athleticism is likely his biggest strength. The only position he never played in high school was defensive back. He was also a star in basketball and track and field.
He will put those skills to the test against an intimidatingly loaded schedule featuring the game’s top pass rushers, several of which will line up across McGlinchey.
First team All-Pro defensive ends Justin Houston (Kansas City), Von Miller (Denver), and Khalil Mack (Oakland) punctuate the list of McGlinchey’s opponents. The Notre Dame product will face Los Angeles Chargers two-headed monster Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Shanahan’s zone schemes will finesse the 6-foot-8, 315-pounder across the line to block the Rams’ vaunted interior duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.
Considering San Francisco’s lack of additional options at right tackle, its daunting out-of-division schedule, Shanahan’s diverse offense, and the importance of protecting a recently inked $137.5 million quarterback, McGlinchey enters his rookie season as an imperative part of the 49ers’ success.
COACH SPOTLIGHT: John Benton, offensive line coach
Benton enters his 16th overall season coaching NFL offensive lines and second with the 49ers. He previously coached the St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, and Jacksonville Jaguars before Shanahan hired him prior to the 2017 season.
In his lone season with the Jaguars in 2016, they allowed 34 sacks, 17 fewer than the season prior. In 2014, Benton helped Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Lamar Miller become the franchise’s first ever duo with a 4,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season, according to the 49ers website. From 2009 to 2011, the Texans produced a top-eight rushing attack under Benton.
His debut season with the 49ers was up-and-down. They allowed 43 sacks, the 10th-most in the league. Their 116 quarterback hits allowed were the fifth-most. The 49ers had the 21st-best rushing attack in 2017.
The offensive line showed improvement in the final five games, however, all of which resulted in wins. They allowed just 12 sacks during that span. Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release surely helped keep that sack total low, but there was improvement among the line, despite Brown missing the final four games with a shoulder injury.
The 49ers brass spent the offseason revamping the unit, signing Weston Richburg to the third-richest center contract in the league, adding former Cowboys guard Jonathan Cooper, restructuring Staley’s contract, and drafting McGlinchey with the team’s first pick in the draft.
Staley, Richburg, and McGlinchey are entrenched as starters. Tomlinson is the front runner at left guard. The right guard spot is the one to monitor, with Joshua Garnett, Mike Person, and Cooper all competing for the starting job.
The 49ers have five former first-round picks on their line. Richburg and Zane Beadles were drafted in the second round. There is untapped potential in this group, which has the monumental task of keeping Garoppolo upright and carving running holes for San Francisco’s new-look backfield in 2018.
This story is part of a two-week training camp countdown highlighting 49ers coaches and ranking their most important players from No. 14 to No. 1. Check out the rankings below.