Monday night’s game between the Rams and 49ers featured a first overall pick in street clothes. Another first-rounder also didn’t dress for the contest.
49ers guard Joshua Garnett, whom the team traded back into round one to acquire, was one of the inactive players for his NFL debut.
“Josh is extremely close and is as close to playing as he is to being inactive just because we’re dressing seven,” coach Chip Kelly told reporters on Monday. “The difference between Josh Garnett and Marcus Martin right now is that Marcus Martin can play center and guard where Josh has just been exclusively trained at guard, just because he just got here. So our emergency center after Marcus was [Zane] Beadles. Beadles has taken minimum snaps there, just like our emergency quarterback is [tight end] Blake Bell. If we’re down to our third center or our third quarterback, we’re going to be drastically different just from a practice standpoint. You don’t get a lot of reps for all those guys. But, Josh is a lot closer. I think people see, ‘Well, he was inactive.’ But he’s pushing to be a starter. The issue is we can’t dress him because when we dress seven, he doesn’t have the center background to be able to go in there and be the center. So it’s just one of those deals where the numbers, when you’re only dressing 46 on game day then you’ve really got to kind of cut someone and that’s really the decision we made going into this game. That doesn’t mean later on down the road that that’s not going to change.”
Regardless, whenever a first-round pick doesn’t dress in his first game for reasons other than injury, the situation invites questions regarding whether the team made the right move, especially when the team moved up. It’s still a long season and Garnett has four total seasons to fulfill his potential. While the situation is noteworthy, it’s too early for the 49ers to panic.