49ers rookie facing Miller
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.”
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.