49ers look to rebound from sack woes, stop Rams star Aaron Donald

San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2) and teammates, from left, Bruce Miller (49) Joe Staley (74), and Daniel Kilgore (67) )wait to take the field before his team beat the St. Louis Rams 19-16 in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Joe Staley (74) and Daniel Kilgore (67) will have key roles in keeping the Los Angeles Rams away from quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2). (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Down went Colin Kaepernick. Down went Blaine Gabbert.

No matter which “mobile” quarterback was in for the 49ers, pass rushers easily took down their prey, piling up 53 sacks last season and 52 in 2014.

A revamped offensive line should fortify things this season, beginning Monday night when Gabbert starts ahead of Kaepernick against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

It won’t be a dry run. Right away, the 49ers encounter defensive tackle Aaron Donald, last season’s runner-up for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, behind the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt.

“You’ve got to be on your toes with Aaron Donald,” center Daniel Kilgore said recently. “He’s an elite defensive tackle. If he’s not No. 1, he’s Nos. 2 or 3. He’s very explosive.”

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Donald told the Rams’ website. “A divisional game — a team that we know, they know us.”

Actually, Kilgore will have new guards flanking him. The projected starters are left guard Zane Beadles, the 49ers’ lone prize from free agency, and right guard Anthony Davis, who spent last season on the retired list after starting strictly at right tackle in his 71 previous games.

Joshua Garnett, a first-round draft pick out of Stanford, could sneak into the lineup, too, although his only exhibition start came in the finale at left guard. Andrew Tiller was the first-string right guard until Davis switched there about two weeks ago, with second-year behemoth Trent Brown (6-foot-8, 355 pounds) entrenched at right tackle.

Neither Gabbert nor Kaepernick got sacked in the exhibition season; Gabbert took 43 snaps in the first three games, and Kaepernick had 49, including 36 last Thursday in San Diego.

Last season, it was ugly. Kaepernick got sacked 28 times through eight games, then it was Gabbert’s turn to absorb 25 sacks, including nine sacks (tying a 49ers record) in a Dec. 13 loss at Cleveland.

“Everybody knows that last year is not anywhere near the standard and expectation here,” left tackle Joe Staley said upon reporting to his 10th training camp. “Everybody is excited to get back to work. That’s the only way to remedy the kind of season we had last year.”

The Rams only sacked Gabbert once in the regular-season finale, a 19-16 overtime win by the host 49ers. Kilgore carries confidence from that matchup into Monday night’s rematch, saying the 49ers have done “OK” against Donald, a third-year star who has 20 career sacks but only one against the 49ers.

“Guys get caught up to much with his speed and strength,” Kilgore said. “You just have to go in knowing he’s an enforcer, but they have 10 others (on defense) that are good, too.”

The Rams defense does tout other solid linemen in Robert Quinn, William Hayes and Michael Brockers. But gone are defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Nick Fairly, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebackers James Laurinaitis and Akeem Ayers.

— The 49ers had meetings but no formal practice Tuesday. Players and coordinators – but not coach Chip Kelly — will be available to the media Wednesday for the first time since tight end Bruce Miller’s early Monday arrest for assault and subsequent release from the team.

— Among the player odds listed for each team by online sportsbook Bovada are these over/under figures for the 49ers: Blaine Gabbert 9.5 starts, Colin Kaepernick 2.5 starts, Carlos Hyde 950 rushing yards and Torrey Smith 850 receiving yards and 4.5 touchdown catches.

— The Rams began practicing this week at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, where they’ll train the next three regular seasons. After moving from St. Louis, they held offseason practices in Oxnard and then moved to UC Irvine for training camp.

“It really wasn’t hard,” Donald said of the moves. “I guess getting yourself situated here and finding a house and moving your family and all (is challenging), but everything has been good.”


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