Niners are Eager to See Garnett Play and Improve - NBC Bay Area
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Niners are Eager to See Garnett Play and Improve

Rookie guard, now set in the starting lineup after a slow start, has been having trouble in pass protection but still figures in team's long-term plans

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    Niners are Eager to See Garnett Play and Improve
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    At Stanford, Joshua Garnett (No. 51) was a dominant blocker. With the 49ers, he's gotten off to a slow start but is finally in the starting lineup. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    When Stanford’s standout guard, Joshua Garnett, was evaluated by the analytic website Pro Football Focus before this year’s draft, it was noted he had many pluses.

    Pro Football Focus noted his great ability as a run blocker, his ability to pull and move and his potential to be dominant in the NFL.

    The 49ers obviously concurred, moving up on the first day of the draft to select Garnett in Round No. 1.

    But halfway through his rookie season, Garnett has yet to make a huge impact on the 49ers offense. And part of that is because of a point Pro Football Focus made in its pre-draft evaluations, a downside among all the positives: “Doesn’t always sustain blocks in pass protection; gave up more pressures than you’d like to see. … ”

    The jury will be out on Garnett for a long while. The 6-foot-4, 312-pound rookie has had just two starts and played only six games, and got off to a slow start in training camp. While many expected Garnett to come out of camp as the opening-day starter at one guard spot, Garnett had to work his way into the lineup.

    It’s possible that with increased playing time and experience, Garnett could have a strong second half and cement his spot in the lineup as a foundation piece in the team’s rebuilding plans.

    But in an evaluation of the team’s rookie draft class from this spring at the season’s halfway point, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee points out that Garnett is off to a much rougher than expected start to his career.

    “The truth is that Garnett has been rough as a pass protector,” wrote Barrows. “The scouting service Pro Football Focus reports that he’s allowed 13 quarterback pressures in 100 pass-blocking situations, a terrible mark. In addition, the 49ers offensive line has been called for just three holding penalties this season. Two have been called against Garnett.”

    Garnett’s situation has been fluid. The 49ers have tried him at both left and right guard. He hasn’t been able to truly settle into one spot. Now that he’s set at right guard ahead of Andrew Tiller, with Zane Beadles at left guard, the 49ers are eager to see his progress.

    For a team that’s going nowhere, at 1-6 heading into Sunday’s game against the Saints at Levi’s Stadium, player development is a key for the second half. The team wants to know what it has in Garnett.

    Said head coach Chip Kelly of Garnett, recently: “He’s getting better and he’s progressing each week, so (we’re) trying to get him some snaps out there and see what he can do.”