Just two days before the San Francisco 49ers’ final preseason game, head coach Jim Tomsula announced yet another change in his revolving offensive line, promoting newly-acquired OL Jordan Devey to starting duties at right guard.
Devey, who joined the team two weeks ago in a trade that sent TE Asante Cleveland to the New England Patriots, has played just one series with the rest of the starting offensive line this preseason.
But despite his lack of experience and playing time with the first-team offense, head coach Jim Tomsula said he’s liked what he’s seen from the second-year pro in his short time with the team:
“He’s just a guy that started numerous games in this league. There’s a calmness about him. There’s a calmness about him in there playing the game and I’m talking about in himself. He’s got, he’s a good football player. He’s a smart guy, came in there and really got it quick. So, just like where he’s at.”
Joining Devey across the line will be LT Joe Staley, LG Alex Boone, C Marcus Martin and RT Erik Pears.
Though Tomsula wouldn’t commit to naming Devey the starter for the season, it appears the 49ers finally have a solid lineup for Week 1 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
Devey’s semi-secured position will force continuity amongst the starting group, which should ultimately lead to better play, though it hardly offers any remedy to the porous line play that has plagued the starting offense throughout preseason.
Devey started four games for New England last year, allowing one sack, three quarterback hits and nine hurries during his time with the Patriots first-team offense. Devey never graded above -2.3 during that time, according to ProFootballFocus.
Then of course, there is this snippet of troubling information from this Patriot’s blog post…
Through the first seven weeks of 2014, Pro Football Focus graded Jordan Devey as the worst OL in the league … tied with Erik Pears. #49ers
— James Brady (@JamesBradySBN) September 1, 2015
So what does all this mean for the 49ers offense? Probably a lot more of what we’ve already been seeing this preseason — which has been anything but good.
The 49ers currently rank 31st in overall offense during the preseason, though fans may take solace that the only team worse than the 49ers in offense is currently the Seattle Seahawks.
A large part of the 49ers inability to amass offense has been because of insufficient pass protection. San Francisco currently ranks dead last in passing offense throughout the first three weeks, while sitting in a tie for third place for most sacks allowed with 10.
With a lack of protection failing to buy time for their quarterbacks, San Francisco also has a league-worst 18.7 pass-attempts per game, far behind the 26.3 attempts of second-worst Seattle.
Despite the additions of Torrey Smith and Reggie Bush, as well as the resurgence of Vernon Davis, the offensive line’s inability to protect QB Colin Kaepernick may force the 49ers into being a one-trick pony on offense again, leaning on the ground game to buy yardage.
Let’s be clear though, the entire 49ers offensive line isn’t terrible — just half of it.
The alignment of talent along the offensive line is made clear actions of the players themselves. A review of this preseason will show you that 49ers running backs clearly prefer to run to the left side of the line behind Staley and Boone.
On the other hand, a majority of the line’s breaches have come from the right side of the line, including last week’s safety in which DeMarcus Ware easily sprinted around Pears to bring down Kaepernick in his own end zone.
It’s easy to be an armchair analyst, and what matters most is the team’s confidence in the newly appointed starting group. And despite what may be reason to feel otherwise, it appears as if Kaepernick himself isn’t worried about the abilities of his new guard, or the play of his starting offensive line.
“He was very composed, and like I said on Saturday, the two scrambles that I had, he allowed me to step up through the pocket and make those plays. Our interior, both our guards, our center, did a great job and our tackles ran the ends past. So, excited to see what they can do.”
For those looking for a positive note, Devey’s only turn with the first-team offense came during their two-minute drill against the Broncos last week to rescue what had been a first-half shutout.
You may remember this drive as perhaps the best and most balanced offensive showing from the first-team this preseason, in which the 49ers used eight plays to drive 57 yards downfield to settle for a field goal.
During this drive, Kaepernick’s line fended off the defense to allow him to scramble for 53 yards rushing while completing a pair of passes to WR’s Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton for an additional 12 yards.
Perhaps OC Geep Chryst’s offense is more suited for Devey to excel. Maybe Devey turns into a serviceable lineman. Or if worst comes to worst, there’s always another round of roster cuts for the 49ers to poach.