When the 49ers take on the Vikings Sunday in the season opener, the San Francisco offensive line will need to bring its A game.
Minnesota’s defensive front is one of the NFL’s best, so the blockers up front will need to open holes and protect quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
It will be a big first test especially for the guys on the right side of the line, No. 1 pick Mike McGlinchey at tackle and either Mike Person or Joshua Garnett at guard.
For now, Person is listed as the starter, but head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters the competition isn’t over. With a good week of practice, Shanahan said Garnett could be in the lineup on the first snap. In fact, the competition may continue throughout the season until somebody takes command, he said.
But the man most in the spotlight will be McGlinchey, the former Notre Dame standout who will have to handle Vikings’ fourth-year defensive end Danielle Hunter. Last season Hunter had seven sacks. In 2016, his first as a starter, he had 12½. It’s possible, too, that McGlinchey may be faced with switches that match him against the defensive end who normally lines up on the other side, Everson Griffen, who had 13 sacks in 2017.
“I have elite pass rushers across from me and obviously Hunter and Everson Griffen are pretty damn good ones,” McGlinchey told reporters this week. “So in that regard, it’s going to be a challenge but I think I’ll stick to what I’ve always done.”
So far, what McGlinchey has always done has impressed his coaches and teammates. Shanahan said this week that he has “high expectations” for the rookie. Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley believes in him, too.
“He’s good, man,” Staley said this week. “He’s so much further along than where I was when I was a rookie so I’m excited for him. … The game’s not too big for him, so he’s just ready to go, ready to prepare and ready to wear that face mask out there on the football field.”
How McGlinchey – and either Person or Garnett – fare Sunday in Minnesota will go a long way toward determining if the 49ers can get off to a winning start in 2018.
Kickoff for Sunday’s game is set for 10 a.m.