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OWINGS MILLS, Maryland – As the 49ers entered the offseason, there was little question that they would have one new starter on the offensive line.
The 49ers may have invested a third-round draft pick in a center, but fourth-year player Daniel Kilgore has given the team no reason to look elsewhere in their search to replace veteran Jonathan Goodwin.
While the 49ers have gotten up-and-down results from their fill-ins on the right side of the line, Kilgore appears to be the clear front-runner to earn the starting job over rookie Marcus Martin. One of the biggest chores for a center is identifying fronts and communicating adjustments. Kilgore has excelled in that area after serving in an apprentice role under Goodwin.
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“He was, I think, 100 percent mentally in the game,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “In practice, he’s been sharp. The center’s got to be on his toes every play. A lot like the quarterback, not only is he giving information, he he’s also got to be aware of what somebody else might be communicating to him, too. So Dan’s doing a really good job with that.”
Kilgore played 24 snaps on Thursday night in the exhibition opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Mike Iupati played a dozen snaps. During that time, the 49ers opened strong with a seven-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in a field goal.
“The tempo in and out of the huddle were great,” Kilgore said. “When we started off the first drive, we were clicking on all cylinders. We were ready to roll.”
The 49ers’ first unit has gotten a lot more work in the past two days of practices with the Ravens' first-team defense. Kilgore has benefitted greatly – and more than held his own – in numerous matchups against Ravens defensive linemen Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams and Chris Canty. There have even been times when he’s found himself working against Terrell Suggs.
“I feel great,” Kilgore said. “The nice thing is being here with Baltimore is they give you different looks. It’s not always the same look that we’re used to, going against our team or in-division teams. It’s nice to have that breakup. You have to pay attention more to what you’re doing.
“Those are stout studs on their defensive line. They got a hell of a defense. So it is nice to change it up, so you’re not always going against Tank (Carradine) or Quinton (Dial) or some other guys all the time. It’s been good. It’s been good for us.”