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San Francisco 49ers

Laken Tomlinson adds depth to the 49ers offensive line

Detroit Lions offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (72) plays against the Indianapolis Colts during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings

It was around this time last year the San Francisco 49ers were striking up a deal with the Detroit Lions to swap guard Brandon Thomas for wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. So far the 49ers look like the winner of that trade.

They’re hoping for a repeat with guard Laken Tomlinson.

The former first-round draft pick struggled in each of his two seasons with the Lions. That isn’t necessarily an indictment of his abilities as a player, but it seemed to be a case of a player not fitting into a particular scheme. His talent kept him on the field probably longer than he should have been. He started 24 games for the Lions, but as the weeks went by, it became clear that he wasn’t a fit for what they wanted to do offensively.

It wasn’t long before he became a liability for penalties, sacks and quarterback pressures. He lost his job last year to rookie Graham Glasgow. Given the depth along the Lions’ offensive front, he was probably headed out the door even if he wasn’t traded.

With the 49ers, he joins a team that should be more balanced on offense, which should lessen his workload in pass protection, a weakness for him dating back to his college playing days at Duke. Coach Kyle Shanahan is hoping to kick-start the running game in San Francisco, and Tomlinson’s massive body on the offensive front should make life easier on Carlos Hyde and company, assuming he regains some of his confidence after a lackluster start to his NFL career. If anything, he can spell Zane Beadles on the interior until Joshua Garnett is back on the field.

There is no questioning Tomlinson’s talent. He has just been slower than most anticipated in his development.

“I thought he played pretty good,” Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter told reporters after Tomlinson was benched last season, via MLive.com. “He’s making strides week to week. Really tough matchup for a young player in there with one of the best groups in the game (Los Angeles Rams), and especially one of the best players in the game (Aaron Donald). I thought he held his own, and he fought and he scratched. He did a lot of good things, so we’re pleased with his development.”

The Lions obviously weren’t pleased enough with his development to give him another year on the roster. They threw in the towel and took a fifth-round pick in exchange for what they considered a first-round mistake.

Now Tomlinson gets a chance to prove them wrong.



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