San Francisco 49ers

Weston Richburg's former Giants teammate: 'He's playing center'

New York Giants center Weston Richburg (70) during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia.
New York Giants center Weston Richburg (70) during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia.

There's no question in Geoff Schwartz's mind about what position Weston Richburg will play with the 49ers.

"He's going to play center," said Schwartz, an analyst and former guard who spent eight seasons in the NFL. "I've been asked that a bunch today. I know what (Kyle) Shanahan said last week about Daniel Kilgore. That was last week. I don't expect them to sign Weston to the money that they did and then not put him at his best position, which is center."

Schwartz has rare insight on Richburg, who is expected to sign a five-year deal with San Francisco this week. He was with the Giants when the team used a second-round pick on Richburg in 2014. He also has trained alongside Richburg in Arizona under the eye of one-time center and current trainer LeCharles Bentley.

"He had to play guard his first year, which is probably not his best position," Schwartz said. "Because we had some injuries – mainly because I got hurt."

Richburg moved to center the following year, his best season in four years with the Giants. He battled a hand injury in 2016 and last season played in four games before being placed on injured reserve with a concussion.

Schwartz said Richburg was sharp – "He knows the game. He knows the tricks. He knows what defenses are doing," he said – and most importantly had the ability to make the reach blocks on nose tackles and defensive linemen that are part of Shanahan's system.

"You have to do that," Schwartz said. "That's not a 'maybe' thing in his offense. That's a requirement for that offense. And he believes Weston can do that for him. It was a priority to sign a player that could do that. And Weston's young and it makes perfect sense."

He noted that Shanahan's attack always has operated best when he had a veteran center like Alex Mack in place. Mack served as his center with the Cleveland Browns, then joined the Falcons in free agency when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator there.

"I don't think he's quite Alex Mack, who is the best center (Shanahan) had in this system whether it was Atlanta or Cleveland," Schwartz said. "But I do think Weston can reach block, can get out in space. He did that in college. He just was never asked to do that in New York. That wasn't really their offense. It was a lot of inside zone and one-back power. It's not what Shanahan's going to do. I do think that he is able to fit well in that system."

As for Kilgore, the 49ers signed him to a three-year, $11.75 million contract extension last month. At the scouting combine two weeks ago, Shanahan said that Kilgore was the team's center. That response came in the context of a question about whether other 49ers – like Joshua Garnett would get a chance at center in the offseason.

Last year the 49ers traded for Ravens veteran center Jeremy Zuttah and brought in another player at the position, Tim Barnes, in free agency. Kilgore held off both, and Zuttah and Barnes eventually were cut.

The 49ers have not said where the various interior linemen will play in 2018 and it's likely to be sorted out through offseason practices. Whoever is not the starting center will be worked into the mix at guard.

Schwartz, who is from Los Angeles and played at the University of Oregon, also played for the Panthers, Vikings and Chiefs. He now works for SiriusXM NFL radio, Sirius-XM's Pac-12 channel, the Pac-12 Network and other media outlets.

"I'm glad he's on the Niners," Schwartz said. "I grew up a Niners fan, so I'm glad to see them moving in the right direction."

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