The 49ers face off against the Minnesota Vikings to start the 2018 season. It is a much-anticipated matchup as both teams have playoff aspirations. There are a number of position battles which can determine the result of the game. One of the most important matchups in the game is between the 49ers offensive line and the Vikings defensive line.
While the 49ers are still building their unit, the Vikings currently boast one of the most athletic defensive lines in the NFL. Whoever wins the battle in the trenches has the best chance at victory.
49ers Offensive Line:
Weston Richburg commands the offensive line at center. He comes to the 49ers with few accolades but with a fiery temper. This was on display in the preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts when he garnered two consecutive penalties.
The 49ers have lacked consistent aggressiveness along the offensive line and it appears that Richburg brings the kind of fury the 49ers need to contend for a division championship.
The 49ers have had some questions at guard for the past couple of years but they may have found their answer. At left guard, Laken Tomlinson provides stability along the offensive line. He signed a three-year extension in June after recording 15 starts in 2017.
Mike Person mans the right guard position. He has only started 18 times since being drafted in 2011. Despite his few opportunities, he has shown his versatility by playing four games at center while with the Colts in 2017 when their center, Ryan Kelly, was injured.
While Person has started few games in the NFL, his broad knowledge of the interior line can prove to be vital against an elite defensive line.
There is a chance that the 49ers may use Joshua Garnett as well. He was chosen in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft and has only played one year in the NFL. He spent the entire 2017 season on injured reserve after having knee surgery. He missed the first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys but played against all other competition in the preseason.
Garnett was drafted by a different regime but it is difficult to imagine the 49ers giving up on a first-round draft pick just three years in his career. He fought hard for the starting right guard spot during the preseason and it will be interesting to see how the 49ers use him throughout the season.
McGlinchey is the 49ers first-round round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. While he starred at left tackle in college, he will be switching to the right side of the line to form a terrifying duo of offensive tackles opposite Staley. If McGlinchey can reach his potential, this can be one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the NFL.
Vikings Defensive Line:
The Vikings defensive line may be the best in the NFL. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen terrorize quarterbacks from the edge. Griffen had a career-high 13 sacks while Hunter recorded seven in 2017.
Sheldon Richardson and Linval Joseph command the interior of the defensive line. Richardson joined the Vikings in the offseason after playing for the Seattle Seahawks last year. He had one sack and 44 tackles for the in 2017 and he showed off his athleticism by intercepting a pass.
Joseph has been with the Vikings since 2014 and is a constant presence in the middle of the defense. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017 after recording 3.5 sacks. At 6-foot-4, 329 pounds he is built like a run stuffer and he used his size to smother opponents for 68 tackles which was second in the NFL among defensive tackles.
Many questions linger about this battle. How will McGlinchey fair against Hunter? Will the center and guards communicate well or will they panic under pressure? Will Staley stifle Griffen or will he allow one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers to take down the franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo? These questions will be answered on Sunday in Minnesota.
Note: This is the first part in a series based on the NFL season through the eyes of the 49ers offensive line. Each week will explore their play against the opposing defensive line from the previous week. Following this analysis, the next opponent’s defensive line will be previewed. The offensive line is a band of brothers who go through much adversity throughout the season.