October 19th, 2020 at 5:52pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The 49ers picked up a huge win over the Rams on Sunday night to keep them in the NFC West race, but they didn’t escape unscathed. Starting center Ben Garland and running back Raheem Mostert both picked up injuries that will cause them to miss time and likely head to injured reserve, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday.
The team has since placed both its starting running back and center on injured reserve. The 49ers moved Mostert to IR Friday.
Garland has a calf strain, while Mostert has a high ankle sprain. It’s especially tough for Mostert, since he just returned from injury. Shanahan also said it’s unlikely Tevin Coleman is unable to return this week, so it’ll likely be Jerick McKinnon and undrafted rookie Jamycal Hasty carrying the load at running back. Mostert has been effective when healthy, but he missed two games earlier this year with a knee injury.
While Mostert is the better-known player, the Garland injury might be more significant since Shanahan has shown an ability to get the most out of whoever is in the backfield. We just heard that the 49ers’ normal starting center, Weston Richburg, is likely still at least a ways away from returning. In fact, Shanahan revealed at his presser that Richburg wouldn’t play until Week 12 at the earliest, following the team’s bye.
Garland has started San Fran’s past five games in his absence, so they’ll now be down to their third option. The 49ers have had brutal injury luck this year, and this certainly isn’t what they needed as they prepare to embark on an absolute gauntlet in their schedule. Their next six games are against the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Saints, Rams, and Bills.
The 49ers are not expected to have their starting center back for a while. Weston Richburg appears a candidate for the reserve/PUP list.
Kyle Shanahan said Thursday that Richburg will not be available for San Francisco’s Week 1 game, and Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area adds that the veteran blocker is expected to be out for the season’s first six weeks. That would point to a PUP list stay. Players who land on the reserve/PUP list at the season’s outset are forced to miss at least six weeks.
Richburg suffered a torn patellar tendon in December. This is a particularly difficult injury to surmount, and the late-season setback looks certain to affect Richburg’s 2020 slate. This will be Richburg’s third 49ers season. The former Giants second-round pick was targeting a training camp return, but that does not appear to be in the cards.
There will be at least three new starters on the 49ers’ O-line in Week 1, with Laken Tomlinson and Mike McGlinchey being the holdovers. San Francisco returned all five of its starting linemen to start last season.
Recent 49ers acquisition Spencer Long opted to retire, and the team added another depth piece to fill the void. Former Bears starting center Hroniss Grasu agreed to terms with the 49ers, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
The agreement is pending COVID-19 testing, but Grasu would potentially provide some second-string help for a 49ers team that has some uncertainty on its O-line interior.
Grasu, 29, spent the past two seasons with the Ravens. Injuries sidetracked his run with the Bears. He landed in Baltimore in 2018 but also spent time with Tennessee during that stretch. The former third-round pick started a game for the Ravens in 2018 but has only appeared in four contests over the past two seasons.
The 49ers are set to re-sign Ben Garland, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He’ll return on a one-year deal worth $2.25MM.
Garland joined the Niners last year after three seasons with the Falcons. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan overlapped with him in that first Atlanta season, making it a natural fit.
Garland entered the NFL as a defensive lineman but later found his footing as a protector. He’s never been a full-time starter, but he’s been well-regarded by coaches and advanced metrics alike for his work in recent years.
The 49ers have signed veteran offensive lineman Ben Garland, per Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter). The team later announced the deal, which will be a one-year pact. Garland will provide depth at both guard positions, and he could theoretically push starters Laken Tomlinson and Mike Person for playing time.
Garland spent the last three seasons with the Falcons, and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was Atlanta’s OC in 2016, the first of those seasons. We heard back in February that the Falcons would not re-sign Garland.
Garland first entered the league as a defensive lineman, but he later transitioned to the O-Line. Last season, the Falcons retained him via the $2.9MM second-round tender for restricted free agents, but he was not in the club’s plans for the 2019 campaign.
He has never been a full-time starter, having started just seven games in his career (three in 2017 and four in 2018). But despite the limited action, Pro Football Focus’s advanced analytics were fond of his 2018 performance, rating him as an above-average guard.
Garland first entered the league as a defensive lineman, but later transitioned to the O-Line. Last season, the Falcons retained him via the $2.9MM second-round tender for restricted free agents. This time around, they’re looking to revamp the offense line, and Garland is not in their plans.
The Falcons reached an extension with offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo on Tuesday, keeping him under club control through the 2021 season. Meanwhile, there will be more O-Line moves on the way. Ryan Schraeder, who lost his tackle job to Sambrailo down the stretch, could be on the outs despite having three years and $18.8MM left on his deal.
Garland was one of 14 NFL restricted free agents to be tendered at the second-round level, and he’s the first to officially sign his tender. Atlanta also tendered safety Ricardo Allen at the second-round level, but he’s yet to sign his contract. There’s no rush for Allen or any restricted free agent to sign his tender, as RFAs have until April 20 to work out offer sheets with other clubs.
Instead, Garland will once again serve as depth for the Falcons, acting as a reserve alongside Ty Sambrailo, Wes Schweitzer, Austin Pasztor, and Sean Harlow. Last season, the 29-year-old Garland appeared in all 16 games and made three starts, ultimately playing on roughly a third of Atlanta’s offensive snaps and a third of the club’s special teams snaps. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus graded Garland as the No. 50 guard among 77 qualifiers.
Jim Irsay is generally unafraid to make bold statements, and the longtime Colts owner made another recently by proclaiming the team’s embattled offensive line as “fixed.” Andrew Luck took the second-most hits of any quarterback last season at 128 despite missing a game due to a concussion. The team also allowed the fifth-most sacks with 46. Luck missed nine games in 2015 with a shoulder injury and absorbed plenty of hits before that season-ending malady. And the Colts did not make any big additions this offseason, former Titans starter Brian Schwenke‘s one-year deal notwithstanding.
“Let me say this: The offensive line is fixed,” Irsay said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com. “I’m telling you guys, the offensive line is fixed. The reason I’ll tell you it’s fixed is because (former Colts offensive line coach) Howard Mudd told me it’s fixed. If Howard Mudd tells you it’s fixed, trust me, it’s fixed.”
“We’ve worked hard to bring in the right type of players (on the offensive line),” Irsay said. “We’re ready to run the football and protect Andrew.”
Here’s the latest news on some other offensive lines, moving first to the Eagles’.
Jason Peters did not attend the Eagles‘ OTA sessions but will be back for minicamp, Bob Ford of Philly.com notes. Lane Johnson worked at left tackle in the 35-year-old’s stead. Peters will be back with the team despite the Eagles approaching him about a paycut in February and the sides not agreeing on one. Ford notes Johnson is expected to slide over to the left side after Peters’ Philadelphia tenure concludes.
The Giants‘ tackle situation is not as enviable, but a consensus appears to be forming. Big Blue seems to agree with the Chargers’ coaching staffs of the past two years. D.J. Fluker did not play right tackle during OTAs, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com notes, focusing strictly on guard duty. Even after Bobby Hart was absent during the team’s final OTA sessions, sixth-round rookie Adam Bisnowaty took first-team reps instead of Fluker on the right edge, Raanan writes. Fluker played right tackle during his first two seasons in San Diego, but the Giants are going with Hart — a 2015 seventh-round pick — right now. This means Fluker may have a tougher time auditioning, barring injury, for a long-term contract with the Giants re-signing holdover right guard John Jerry. Fluker is signed to a one-year deal.
Ben Garland may be ready to stick on one side of the ball this season and will probably see time in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career. Used on defense as well during the Falcons‘ NFC championship season, Garland will battle Wes Schweitzer for the right guard job vacated by Chris Chester, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Schweitzer was a sixth-round pick last year who did not suit up as a rookie. Ledbetter notes the 29-year-old Garland may have a slight upper hand going into minicamp. Garland’s previous opportunity to vie for a starting job ended quickly, with the 2015 Broncos bringing in Evan Mathis midway through training camp after Garland worked with Denver’s first-stringers at that camp’s outset. Garland, though, played in all 19 Falcons games last season after spending most of the ’15 season on Atlanta’s practice squad.