Jim Tomsula isn’t about to let his inconsistent offensive line breathe easily.
Even though the same five players have started both exhibition games and every practice since the June minicamp, the 49ers’ coach insisted the unit’s composition remains unresolved.
“I like where those guys are going, but I don’t want to tell anybody we’re settled,” Tomsula said during a conference call Monday.
The offensive line performed predictably in Sunday’s 23-6 win over Dallas. It was stout and aggressive in the running game as the 49ers rushed 38 times – as opposed to 22 times by the Cowboys – and gained 155 yards. Starter Carlos Hyde averaged 5.6 yards on seven carries, and backup Jarryd Hayne averaged 6.8 yards on eight carries.
But the passing game – and the pass protection – had issues as the 49ers threw for only 50 yards. Problems again arose on the right side, where second-year player Marcus Martin is playing guard and veteran Erik Pears is playing tackle.
Last week, another young player, Brandon Thomas, seemed ready to challenge Martin for a starting role. But Thomas played at left guard against the Cowboys. The backup right guards were rookie Ian Silberman and Jordan Devey, who was acquired from New England last week for tight end Asante Cleveland.
“As we were getting (Thomas) through the process, (we) noticed there was a hitch in his giddyup on his third step,” Tomsula said of Thomas. “So we put him on the right to get that hitch out of the giddyup. It worked really well. We’ve seen him completely moving great, so we wanted to put him back to the left and see how comfortable he was, and it was very good.”
Wilhoite to return – Tomsula said linebacker Michael Wilhoite, who has missed all of training camp because of a muscle strain, is scheduled to return this week to practice, which includes scrimmages Wednesday and Thursday with the Broncos outside Denver.
Tomsula suggested Wilhoite, the only 49ers linebacker who started all 16 games last season, would be eased back into the mix. He ostensibly is competing with Nick Moody for the starting spot next to NaVorro Bowman.
“It’s not, ‘We go from zero to 100 in one day,’” Tomsula said of players returning from injuries. “We’re not going to do that.”
Another inside linebacker, Desmond Bishop, injured his left thumb Sunday. Bishop, who tied for second on the team with five tackles, needs “a little procedure” that will sideline the veteran.
Tomsula also said the 49ers will keep Philip Wheeler out of practice another week or so while he recovers from a muscle strain. The team’s healthy inside linebackers are Bowman, Moody, Shayne Skov, Nick Bellore and Steve Beauharnais. The team has one open roster spot after trading tight end Derek Carrier to Washington last week.
Et cetera – Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who is in the mix to be the No. 3 receiver, will return to practice this week after missing the last two weeks because of a muscle strain. So will defensive end Glenn Dorsey, who missed Sunday’s game because of a muscle strain.
▪ Tomsula said tight end Vance McDonald (ankle), safety Craig Dahl (back) and wide receiver Chuck Jacobs (ankle) will miss two days of practice after being injured against the Cowboys. He said defensive end Tank Carradine suffered a leg strain but will work through it this week.
▪ Tomsula said he’d be “extremely disappointed” if there are any melees with the Broncos, as has been the case when other teams have scrimmaged this summer. “No. 1, it excites me because I feel like it’s a class-act organization,” he said of the Broncos. “ ... And we also get to play in the altitude, which I really like the idea of going and spending a week in the altitude, training up there. I think that does good for us.”