49ers rookie fac­ing Miller

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTING GREEN - By Eric Branch

Mike McGlinchey went into gush mode when asked about the pass rusher he’ll line up against Sun­day.

The 49ers rookie right tackle be­gan by terming his up­com­ing foe “crazy ath­letic,” claimed his first step was one of the best “you’ve ever seen” and fin­ished by declar­ing him in “a class of his own in a lot of re­gards” and a “once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion-type player.”

It sounds like the kid was lay­ing it on a bit thick, but McGlinchey was of­fer­ing an ac­cu­rate scout­ing re­port con­sid­er­ing this: He was dis­cussing Den­ver’s Von Miller.

On Sun­day, McGlinchey will get the tough­est test of his im­pres­sive de­but sea­son when he squares off against the player who ranks third in NFL his­tory in sacks per game (0.83), has the long­est ac­tive streak of con­sec­u­tive 10-sack sea­sons (five) and has the most sacks (96) in the NFL since he en­tered

the league in 2011.

Miller, 29, a six-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion, is show­ing no signs of slow­ing. He ranks sec­ond in the NFL in sacks (12.5) and will ar­rive Sun­day with at least a half sack in seven straight games, match­ing the long­est streak of his ca­reer.

McGlinchey, the No. 9 pick, said Sun­day’s meet­ing against the Bron­cos was a game he high­lighted when the NFL sched­ule was an­nounced in April.

“It’s go­ing to be a great chal­lenge,” McGlinchey said. “He’s so, so good. I’m hope­fully go­ing to prove that I’m re­ally good, too. It’s go­ing to be a hell of a fight Sun­day.”

Miller will be play­ing his first mean­ing­ful game at Levi’s Sta­dium since Fe­bru­ary 2016 when he be­came the 10th de­fen­sive player to be named a Su­per Bowl MVP in Den­ver’s 24-10 win over the Pan­thers.

This week, Miller noted he was part of an­other his­toric win in Santa Clara. In 2014, the Bron­cos won the first foot­ball game at Levi’s Sta­dium when they beat the 49ers 34-0 in a pre­sea­son game.

On Sun­day, Miller could make more his­tory: He needs two sacks to pass Si­mon Fletcher for the most in fran­chise his­tory.

“Hope­fully,” Miller said, “San Fran­cisco will re­main spe­cial for us.”

The McGlinchey ver­sus Miller bat­tle — fea­tur­ing a highly drafted rookie against a dec­o­rated vet­eran — will be repli­cated on the other end of the 49ers’ of­fen­sive line: Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Sta­ley, 34, will face rookie pass-rusher Bradley Chubb, the No. 5 over­all pick in April.

Chubb leads rook­ies in sacks (10) and has the fifth-most sacks by a rookie through 12 games since 1982. He needs two sacks to break Miller’s fran­chise record for sacks by a rookie.

In the same way McGlinchey has ben­e­fited from Sta­ley’s men­tor­ship, Chubb has been in­flu­enced by Miller. At least that’s Sta­ley’s opin­ion af­ter re­view­ing Chubb’s first sea­son in which he had just 1.5 sacks in his first five games.

“You see his game from the first four weeks or so and how it’s trans­formed un­til where he’s at right now,” Sta­ley said. “He’s def­i­nitely do­ing a lot more stuff that is Von-es­que in terms of the power plays off speed (rushes). He’s us­ing his hands a lot bet­ter than he was early in the sea­son and I think that’s be­cause of his work with Von.”

Sta­ley thinks McGlinchey is at a point in his first NFL sea­son where he’ll be ready for Miller.

Sta­ley noted McGlinchey had some early sea­son strug­gles, which in­cluded some ini­tial is­sues in his fourth NFL start when he faced Pro Bowl pass­rusher Melvin In­gram in a loss to the Charg­ers. On Fri­day, Sta­ley re­called a dis­as­trous per­for­mance in his sixth NFL start in 2007 against the Gi­ants when he was dom­i­nated by Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Michael Stra­han.

“I called my dad af­ter the game I was like ‘Man, dad, this sucks. This is so hard. The NFL is re­ally hard,’ ” Sta­ley said. “My dad’s like ‘Yeah, I’m sure it is. Shut up.’ ”

As Sta­ley did 11 years ago, McGlinchey has re­bounded. He en­ters Sun­day on the heels of an im­pres­sive per­for­mance in a 43-16 loss at Seat­tle, where the crowd noise can make life ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult for of­fen­sive line­men, par­tic­u­larly those mak­ing their first visit. McGlinchey held Seat­tle’s Frank Clark, who is tied for 10th in the NFL in sacks with 10, with­out a sack.

McGlinchey said he’s not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the late-sea­son fa­tigue that can slow some first-year play­ers.

“I think you only hit a rookie wall if you don’t love it,” McGlinchey said. “I’ve loved ev­ery sec­ond of this. I think it’s an awe­some job.”

On Sun­day, McGlinchey’s job will in­clude a daunt­ing task when he lines up across from Miller. McGlinchey hopes to con­tain him with a mix of fun­da­men­tals and fe­roc­ity.

“That’s the game plan this week,” he said. “Do the ba­sic things well and fight my ass off.”

Michael Za­garis / Getty Im­ages

Nin­ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey, shown block­ing dur­ing Sun­day’s game in Seat­tle, will face a Hall of Fame-cal­iber player in Den­ver’s Von Miller this week­end at Levi’s Sta­dium.

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