SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers will report for training camp July 27, with the first practice slated for the following day.
As we head toward the start of camp, we're previewing each position and the competitions that could ensue. Today we look at the offensive line, where it's fairly clear who will make the team. But finding a starting five will be one of training camp's most important tasks.
On the roster: Joe Staley, Trent Brown, Jeremy Zuttah, Daniel Kilgore, Zane Beadles, Joshua Garnett, Brandon Fusco, Tim Barnes, John Flynn, Garry Gilliam, Andrew Lauderdale, Richard Levy, Erik Magnuson, Norman Price, John Theus, Darrell Williams Jr.
Locked in: Staley, Brown, Zuttah, Beadles, Garnett.
Battles to watch: The 49ers clearly were not enamored with the offensive-line options in the NFL draft, a fact laid bare by their decision to ignore the front five with their cache of picks. Instead, San Francisco opted to add competition and bolster the group via free agency and trade. They acquired Zuttah via trade, signed Gilliam as a restricted free agent and then brought in Fusco and Barnes as unrestricted free agents.
All of those moves seemed to indicate that the Niners will enter this training camp without many hotly contested battles for roster spots. Staley, Brown, Zuttah and Garnett are good bets to win starting spots, though Zuttah will battle Kilgore and, to a lesser extent, Barnes for the center job. Garnett rotated with Fusco and Beadles during the spring. Beadles' versatility and ability to play in an outside zone-blocking scheme make him a keeper even if he doesn't win a starting job.
As it stands, Staley and Brown are expected to handle the left and right tackle jobs, respectively. Gilliam isn't listed as a lock if only because we need to leave the door open for one of the younger linemen, such as Theus, to impress and win the job. Still, Gilliam actually got work with the first team at right tackle in the offseason program and looks like the best bet to be the team's third tackle.
The real jockeying for spots figures to come inside. Zuttah is an ideal fit to be the starting center because of his athleticism, but Kilgore is no pushover and Barnes also brings experience. The loser of a Zuttah-Kilgore battle could also get a look at guard.
During organized team activities, the Niners rotated Fusco, Garnett and Beadles and occasionally had Zuttah getting some reps at guard when he was healthy. Garnett was a first-round pick in 2016 and has trimmed down in an effort to be quicker to the second level for coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme. Fusco is experienced and if nothing else can provide veteran depth. It's possible Fusco could win a guard job along with Garnett, allowing Beadles to be a sort of super utility man off the bench.
The rest of the group is full of unknowns. Somebody could stand out and elbow his way into a job. But the Niners will likely keep eight offensive linemen and no more than nine. That leaves room for most of the accomplished names in the group to nail down jobs while the others fight for practice-squad spots.