SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- By the time San Francisco 49ers rookie guard Joshua Garnett entered last Thursday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, most people probably didn't notice. The game was already a lost cause and the 49ers had little to no chance to catch up.
But in the midst of another disappointing loss, Garnett found opportunity. Coach Chip Kelly has kept Garnett active for the past couple of weeks after the retirement of backup lineman Anthony Davis. He hadn't, however, been able to work Garnett into the lineup until Thursday.
So it was that Kelly called on Garnett to replace right guard Andrew Tiller in the fourth quarter of that 33-21 defeat. It was Garnett's first extended opportunity to play in a regular-season game after San Francisco traded back into the end of the first round to take him in this year's NFL draft.
Garnett played the final 18 snaps of the game and earned mixed reviews from Kelly for his work.
"Josh was OK," Kelly said. "I think his first significant snaps. I think we had him in for 18 plays. He did some nice things at times, and then some other things that I’m sure he wants back, but that’ll come with time with him."
That Garnett entered the game at right guard was maybe a little bit of a surprise considering that's where he started training camp before moving to the left side when it appeared Davis was going to battle Tiller for the right guard job.
Garnett has played on both sides in the time since, and as one of two active backup linemen on game day, he has to be able to play both spots to hold down one of those backup jobs. Garnett got some valuable snaps during the 49ers' late 13-play scoring drive that culminated in quarterback Blaine Gabbert's 1-yard touchdown run. He was also on the field when Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell dropped Gabbert for a safety with about a minute to play.
Whether Garnett gets more opportunities moving forward remains to be seen, but given his draft status, it stands to reason that it will happen at some point.
"We had talked about trying to (get him some work)," Kelly said. "He’s getting better and he’s progressing each week, so [we're] trying to get him some snaps out there and see what he can do."