A week ago, 49ers veteran tackle Joe Staley likened guard Laken Tomlinson to his former offensive linemate, Mike Iupati.
“He kind of reminds me a little bit of Mike the way he’s built,” Staley said, noting Tomlinson’s thick, powerful legs and body.
Though Tomlinson may never be a Pro Bowl guard the way Iupati was, he did show Sunday in his first 49ers start that he can be an upgrade at the left guard position over Zane Beadles.
In a 12-9 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle Sunday, Tomlinson started in place of Beadles – who graded very poorly in the Week 1 loss to the Panthers – and was in the lineup for 48 of 49 offensive snaps. Tomlinson was the only change to an offensive line that played markedly better in Week 2 than Week 1, with Staley remaining at left tackle, Daniel Kilgore at center, Brandon Fusco at right guard and Trent Brown at right tackle.
With Tomlinson, the 49ers ran the ball much better, gaining 159 yards on 8.4 yards per carry. Plus, the pass protection was improved. Though Brian Hoyer was sacked twice, it was an upgrade from the previous week.
On Monday, the 49ers released a new depth chart, which listed Tomlinson – a 2015 first-round draft pick from Duke acquired recently from the Detroit Lions – as the starter at left guard going into Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
“He did a good job,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan Monday. “I was definitely pleased with him. He didn’t have many mistakes from an assignment standpoint.”
After Sunday’s game – a loss that dropped the 49ers to 0-2 – Shanahan had told reporters he hadn’t noticed Tomlinson much during the game, which is often a good sign for an offensive lineman. Tomlinson wasn’t giving up sacks or blowing run-blocking assignments.
How much better was the pass protection? Against the Panthers in Week 1, Hoyer was hit eight times. In Week 2 that was cut in half.
“I thought we ran the ball well and our protection at times, I thought they gave us time to throw, which is a good thing when you’re going against that group,” said Shanahan.
Thursday’s game against the 1-1 Rams at Levi’s Stadium is set to kick off at 5:25 p.m.