SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Keep an eye on good-looking San Francisco 49ers rookie tackle Ilm Manning in Saturday’s preseason against the Denver Broncos, though you may have to strain to see him.
Manning, who went undrafted out of Hawaii this year, isn’t the typical, towering left tackle. At 6-foot-2, 299 pounds he’s the second shortest offensive lineman on the roster — 6-1 guard Jason Poe takes the title — and seems better suited for guard or center, which is what he might end up playing for the 49ers.
For the time being, however, he’s the third-string left tackle, and he’s held up surprisingly well in practices and in Sunday’s preseason game. According to Pro Football Focus, Manning allowed no quarterback pressures in his 33 snaps against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I don’t know that his long-term career is at tackle, but he’s played very well there,” offensive line coach Chris Foerster said Thursday. “And you’re right, he doesn’t quite fit the prototype, but he’s done a good job this preseason.”
Ilm Manning (60) doesn’t have the typical left tackle profile. But the undrafted rookie drew praise from Oline coach Chris Foerster today. pic.twitter.com/eXGnLcJfnZ
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 17, 2023
Manning was a five-year starter at left tackle for Hawaii and is one of the few players ever to have 60 college starts at the position. He noted he played in a variety of offenses, first Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot system, then Todd Graham’s downhill-style blocking attack, then back to a run-and-shoot under current head coach Timmy Chang.
Everyone expected he’d move inside when he reached the NFL, including Manning.
He spent the pre-draft period at Bommarito Performance Systems in South Florida training to be a guard or center. The Minnesota Vikings, one of the teams interested in signing him after the draft, wanted him to play guard. The hometown Arizona Cardinals — Manning is from Glendale, Ariz. — asked him to play center during their local pro day.
He chose the 49ers because the offense suits his skills. Manning ran his pre-draft 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds and after playing in a run-and-shoot system he’s well-versed at getting in space and hitting moving targets.
“My agent said, ‘You’re fast and physical, and that’s what (the 49ers) system is all about,’” he said.
Foerster said the team was looking to sign a rookie tackle after the draft, but none stood out.
“We were looking at the tackle list and it was thin,” he said. “It was really thin.”
The 49ers figured that, as the third-team tackle, Manning would probably be blocking the same types of players he went against in college. That happened versus the Raiders when he found himself mostly matched with defensive ends George Tarlas of Boise State and Adam Plant of UNLV. Manning said there were flaws in his run blocking on Sunday, but that he was proud of his pass protection.
“I had some battles against old opponents from college when I was in the game,” he said. “That was kind of fun.”
Where will he end up? A spot on the 53-man roster is probably out of the question, but he appears to have a shot at the practice squad. To land there, however, he may have to edge out either Poe or another undrafted rookie, Joey Fisher, who got a $130,000 guarantee to join the 49ers. Fisher has been making the transition from college right tackle to left guard.
“It’s been a big leap for him,” Foerster said. “I’d say the last two weeks, some things have improved, but there was a long stretch there where it was really hard for him. It is big, it is faster, a lot of it is different.”
Odds & ends
• After a pair of long practices this week, the 49ers had a shorter session on Thursday, one that saw Brock Purdy complete 13 of 19 passes and concluded with a successful, two-minute scoring drive from Purdy and the first-team offense.
Thursday was the first time Purdy has practiced for three straight days since returning from an injured elbow and he now has no restrictions at all.
He was 5-of-8 on a length-of-field drive in hurry-up mode, hitting Deebo Samuel twice and Chris Conley twice to set up a 34-yard field goal for Jake Moody. The rookie missed two attempts in Las Vegas with the Raiders calling timeouts before each. So special teams coach Brian Schneider called a timeout Thursday just before the 34-yard attempt. Moody made that kick and one right after it when Schneider backed him up another 10 yards.
• Sam Darnold had a rough stat line in going 1-of-7 with the second-team offense. Two of his attempts, however, resulted in drops by rookie tight end Cameron Latu, one at the sideline and one in the end zone during a red-zone period. Latu also dropped a would-be touchdown from Trey Lance during a practice against the Raiders and had a fumble in Sunday’s game.
Kyle Shanahan said on KNBR radio Thursday that Purdy and the starters could play a series or two against the Broncos on Saturday. Then Darnold is expected to take over at quarterback with Lance playing in the second half.
Lance was 3-of-3 on short passes to Troy Fumagalli, Willie Snead IV and Jeremy McNichols. Brandon Allen was back after taking time off for the birth of his child. He didn’t take any 11-on-11 snaps in the shorter-than-normal practice.
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• Darnold’s lone completion came during a red-zone drill when he hit rookie Ronnie Bell on a short pass at the sideline. He tried to hit Bell two more times in the end zone, but he was blanketed by fellow rookie D’Shawn Jamison, who has been playing nickel cornerback with the second-team defense this week.
• A number of 49ers sat out the session, including running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw. It was the first session Kinlaw has missed this offseason. Dre Greenlaw (hamstring), Elijah Mitchell (adductor), George Kittle (adductor), Oren Burks (knee), Ray-Ray McCloud III (wrist) and George Odum (shoulder) also missed practice. Defensive linemen Drake Jackson and Kalia Davis were in uniform and worked extensively with assistant defensive line coach Darryl Tapp but did not participate in team drills.
Top draft pick Ji’Ayir Brown is under the weather and missed practice. Qwuantrezz Knight, who until this week had been playing nickel cornerback, has been taking snaps at safety with Odum and Brown out.
• One of the 49ers’ unsettled positions as they enter their second preseason game is swing tackle. Jaylon Moore has seemed like the team’s top option to this point, although Foerster had good things to say about veteran addition Matt Pryor on Thursday.
Pryor, who’s listed at 332 pounds, is the team’s heaviest player, which makes him an odd fit in a rushing attack that requires its linemen to be light on their feet. Foerster, however, noted the five-year veteran has been strong in pass protection.
“Is he ever going to be the typical tackle in this offense?” Foerster said. “No, but shoot, being able to play on third down and just being functional enough on first and second down as a run blocker can be good enough. That third-down piece of pass protection is a big piece. If you can’t play on third down, you can’t play as an offensive lineman in the NFL.”
Pryor started at right tackle Sunday and has yet to practice on the left side. Foerster had said previously that Pryor might start getting snaps on the left side after the Raiders game but that hasn’t happened yet. Moore, Leroy Watson and Manning have taken all of the left tackle repetitions so far.
(Top photo of Ilm Manning: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
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