Kyle Shanahan said newcomer Laken Tomlinson has a chance to win a starting job at one of the 49ers’ guard spots, perhaps left guard where incumbent Zane Beadles struggled Sunday against the Panthers.
“We’ll look at that every week,” Shanahan said. “We did last week, too. We’ve got a group of guys on our roster – they’ll battle. They had three days to do it last week; they’ll have three days to battle and we’ll put out (on) Sunday whatever we think our best lineup is.”
Tomlinson, whom the 49ers acquired in a trade with the Detroit Lions on Aug. 31, was one of seven players who did not dress for the Carolina game largely because he’s so new to the team’s system and also because he doesn’t play center. Rookie Erik Magnuson was the team’s backup guard and center against the Panthers.
Tomlinson, who is entering his third season, never has played in the type of zone-blocking system the 49ers run, and it might be a stretch to think he’d be well-versed enough by Sunday to make his first start for San Francisco in the loud, frenetic atmosphere in Seattle.
“Asking him to do something he never did in college or the NFL is a little tough with just a few (practice) reps,” Shanahan said. “He’ll have more reps this week. ... Usually the more reps a guy gets, the better chance he has.”
Shanahan said both guard spots are up for grabs. Beadles, however, had the biggest gaffe Sunday, allowing a Panthers defensive lineman to sack quarterback Brian Hoyer and cause a fumble in the first quarter. Three plays later, Carolina scored the first touchdown of the game.
Shanahan called Beadles’ performance “up and down.”
“The hard thing about (being) an O-lineman is that when you miss it and it ends up being a sack, everyone gets to see that, and they don’t get to see the rest of what you have to do,” he said. “He had a tough challenge. He had some good players he was going against and at times he blocked them well. Came up short on a couple of them. One, the sack-fumble, was a big one.”
Tomlinson, 25, was a first-round pick in 2015 by former Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, who is now one of the top decision makers in the 49ers organization.
Last year, Tomlinson began the season as Detroit’s left guard but lost the starting job five weeks into the season. He ended up starting 10 games at right guard because of injuries to other players. He was a four-year starter at Duke at right guard and had been lining up at right guard with the Lions second-team offense prior to the trade.
The 49ers’ starting guards at the moment are Beadles and Brandon Fusco. Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick in 2016, appeared to be in the lead for the left-guard spot in early August when he suffered a knee injury that required surgery. The 49ers placed Garnett on season-ending injured reserve earlier this month.
The 49ers sent a 2019 fifth-round pick to Detroit for Tomlinson.