The 49ers offensive line in 2015 was in constant flux. It never really came together as an effective unit.
There were a number of problems, but one of the biggest was the loss of center Daniel Kilgore to injury during the 2014 season. Kilgore, who’d finally won a starting job, was becoming stronger and stronger in 2014 when he suffered a fractured leg in October of that season.
After two surgeries and a longer-than-expected rehab, Kilgore didn’t get back into the team’s lineup until early December. He played in just five games and started the final three.
But that brief period of activity allowed Kilgore to get acclimated again and be ready for the 2016 season. His return should be a big plus.
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted recently, “The 49ers’ offensive line gained noticeable stability when Kilgore finally returned to the lineup late last year.”
Kilgore should anchor the center of the line, with free-agent pickup Zane Beadles at left guard and Joe Staley at left tackle. The right side of the line is still in flux. It could be that holdovers Andrew Tiller and Trent Brown get the starting gigs at right guard and tackle, but the 49ers also figure to draft some young talent or pick up another free agent to help.
Whoever is around him, Kilgore is ready to have a good season in new head coach Chip Kelly’s offensive system.
“This offseason is going to be huge to get back to that form (of 2014),” he told the team’s website. “I’m really going to work to get back to that shape.”
In 2015, the analytics website Pro Football Focus rated the 49ers as having the 27th best offensive line in the NFL. They were 14th in pass blocking and a horrible 30th in run blocking. One of the biggest problems was young center Marcus Martin, who took over for Kilgore. PFF called Martin “a liability throughout the season.”
“His work in pass protection was poor, but it was his performance in the run game that was a true mess,” wrote PFF.
With Kilgore back, that’s one problem area that should be much better in 2016.