DENVER – Three games into the exhibition season, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula suggested he and his coaching staff have seen enough to bring some clarity to the team’s unsettled offensive line.
But that might not be altogether comforting for a first-team offense that has failed to score a touchdown in eight possessions this summer. And it’s unlikely the starters will see much action in the exhibition finale on Thursday night, too.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed just 2 of 5 passing attempts for 13 yards in the first half. He also was sacked twice for minus-13 yards. The 49ers’ only positive plays on offense came when Kaepernick was forced from the pocket on scrambles amounting to a game-high 53 rushing yards.
“O-line-wise, we had a little bit of a struggle there,” Tomsula said following the 49ers’ 19-12 loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. “And I think things are becoming more clear. We’ll know more about that in the next couple of days.”
Right tackle Erik Pears, whose starting job has not been in question throughout training camp, surrendered a safety when Kaepenick was sacked for a 3-yard loss in the end zone. Denver’s DeMarcus Ware beat Pears with an outside move, and Kaepernick could not step up because rookie right guard Ian Silberman was pushed back into the pocket.
“They had the right coverage called for what we had up, so it was something we got stuck, our running back got hung up, didn’t get a chance to get the ball out,” Kaepernick said.
The left side of the 49ers’ line seems solid with tackle Joe Staley and guard Alex Boone. But center and right guard have not yet been publicly settled. Martin Martin started the first two exhibition games at right guard. He lined up at center on Saturday. Joe Looney started the first two games at center.
Silberman, a sixth-round draft pick, worked with the first team this week in two practices against the Broncos. He got his first start of the exhibition season on Saturday and said he felt he played better after he was able to shake his nerves.
“The first two series could’ve gone a little better,” Silberman said. “Aside from that and the pressure I gave up, I thought it was a pretty good day overall.”
Tomsula said he believes the 49ers have the offensive linemen capable of meshing into a good group. Kaepernick echoed the comments of his head coach.
“Yeah, they’re working hard,” said Kaepernick, who gave way to backup Blaine Gabbert at the beginning of the second half. “They’re doing all of the right things to get where we need them to be for the season. They’re doing everything we’ve asked of them. They’re working hard. It will play itself out.
“This is not any concern on this team. That’s what the preseason is for. It’s to work those things out and see who we have in different positions. That’s what we’re doing and we’re working to get ready for the regular season.”
Running back Carlos Hyde gained 28 yards on four rushing attempts to provide encouragement. Reggie Bush gained 21 yards on his only carry, but it came on a third-and-22 situation.
Kaepernick gave credit to the 49ers’ offensive line for his rushing yards on plays in which he broke into the open field on designed passes.
“That was an example of our offensive line doing a great job to open the rushing lane for me,” Kaepernick said. “They pushed the rush wide and allowed me to step up and that’s why those plays were able to be made.”