SANTA CLARA — As the San Francisco 49ers mandatory three-day minicamp came to a close Thursday, head coach Jim Harbaugh remained optimistic about the state of his offensive line amidst some key absences.
With longtime center Jonathan Goodwin departing via free agency, and starters Anthony Davis and Alex Boone not participating in minicamp, the 49ers’ offensive line came into camp with glaring holes.
But according to Harbaugh, what could have been a weakness in the 49ers personnel turned into one of the highlights of the minicamp:
“Really happy with the offensive line. Thought they progressed extremely well, better and better and better.”
Harbaugh went on to praise both the groups physical and mental strides that were taken during practices.
““Foot work, hand placement, understanding the system, taking the correct blocking angles. You can still play with low leverage, but just feel like the group did an excellent job.”
Pro Bowler’s Mike Iupati and Joe Staley received expected praise from Harbaugh, and he continued on to commend the works of rookies Fouimalo Fanoti (G) and Dillon Farrell (G/C) for their work along the line. Likewise, newcomer Jonathan Martin received recognition for his work as well.
After being commended during Tuesday’s media session by offensive coordinator Greg Roman, guard Joe Looney looked to have earned himself another fan in quarterback Colin Kaepernick:
“Joe Looney’s been great. He came in last year during the Rams game and played phenomenal. So, I think he’s someone that everyone has great confidence in.”
Harbaugh also gave a bit of insight as to how the battle for the starting center job is unfolding.
With competition for the position expected to be almost exclusively between veteran Daniel Kilgore and rookie Marcus Martin, Harbaugh commented about what he’s seen between the two players so far:
“Kilgore was good. Kilgore was real good. Marcus Martin’s got a chance to be real good, too.”
With no guarantees that either Boone or Anthony Davis will be back in time for training camp — which requires players to report on July 23 — players along the offensive line may continue to get a chance to make their case for a higher spot in the 49ers depth chart.
But even without such key contributors along the line, Harbaugh’s words of encouragement should garner a collective sigh of relief amongst fans:
“That whole group really has come a long way. Not just the starters but guys that are new into the system. Really felt they progressed and came a long way in this nine weeks.”