By: Nicholas Peck (@nickpeck52)
Final Edit: (@Zachhernan)
For every team too be great there has too be a great offensive line. To have a great offensive line you have to have a great center. Especially in new head coach, Kyle Shanahan’s intricate outside zone scheme. Last year as the Falcons OC Shanahan brought in Pro Bowl center Alex Mack from the Cleveland Browns. Mack was credited to being the most important player on the Flacons #1 ranked offense despite the likes of several of the NFL’s brightest stars on the roster including Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonta Freeman. This being, because in Shanahan much complex outside scheme offense has to have a center who can make all the calls up front for the line and a guy who has a substantial understanding of the game of football and it’s schemes. This is exactly what Mack brought to last years Falcons team, as they would eventually go on to the Super bowl.
With that being said, it was no surprise that once Shanahan and Lynch took over this off-season, one of their first roster moves was swapping 6th-round picks with the Ravens to get Pro Bowl-center Jeremy Zuttah. Coming off of his 10th season, which many notable NFL analysts believe was his best. Zuttah ranked 15th among all centers and even made his first Pro Bowl last season. Zuttah might have everything Shanahan will be looking for in a center for this year’s team. He is also familiar with the outside zone after playing for then-Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in 2014. Kubiak’s offense being similar to Shanahan’s.
Zuttah being an upgrade from struggling center Daniel Kilgore. While Kilgore, a 2011 5th round draft pick, started 13 games at center in 2016, he was unable to finish the year with a season ending knee injury. Unfortunately, this is not the 7th year center’s first run in with season-ending injuries. While Kilgore is the younger of the two, he has experienced significantly more injuries than Zuttah. Which is why I see Kilgore at more of a reserve role this year, being the handy man backup either to play guard or center. Thus, giving Zuttah the starting job at center. Zuttah deserves the jobs for two particular reasons: he has experience in Shanahan’s style of offense and he is coming off one of a career year.
New general manager when asked about the trade saying, “Kyle (Shanahan) and I are firm believers that competition brings out the best in everyone. We also believe that you can never have enough good offensive linemen, and Jeremy has certainly proven to be a very talented player having earned a Pro Bowl selection last season.” (NFL NETWORK).
So whether Zuttah or Kilgore turns out being Shanahan’s next Alex Mack or not, whoever will be snapping the ball come August should be an upside to our rebuilding 49ers this year. The offense as a whole will be vastly improved, but in the end, it all starts in the middle.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one from 49ersHive! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook so you don’t miss a beat!