49ers review: Offensive line

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49ers review: Offensive line

This is the fourth installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.Take a look at the stats most often associated with offensive line play, and the 49ers did not fare well. The 49ers were sacked 44 times -- 26th-best in the NFL in sacks per pass play. While the 49ers ranked eighth in the league in rushing yards per game, their 4.1-yard average per attempt was 19th. There were some games in which the line played exceptionally well (mostly at home). And there were times when things broken down with more frequency (mostly on the road). So it was an up-and-down season for the line. But with continuity, this group should continue to get better for several years to come. Grade: C
Joe Staley -- After seeing injuries cut short his previous two seasons, Staley started all 16 games and generally performed at a high level. He was rewarded with his first trip to the Pro Bowl after a season in which he surrendered six sacks, according to STATS, Inc., and was not called for any holding penalties. On run plays at left tackle, the 49ers averaged 5.2 yards per attempt, ranking seventh in the NFL. There were times throughout the season that Staley and left guard Mike Iupati were not on the same page. Perhaps that was the result of no offseason to become more familiar with the new scheme. But the pair should have plenty of time to improve, as Staley and Iupati figure to be working together for several more years.Mike Iupati -- The big improvement for offensive linemen usually takes place in the second year. But Iupati and right tackle Anthony Davis, both of whom started all 16 games as rookies in 2010, did not have the offseason program to improve. Iupati did not make a dramatic improvement in his second season. He was solid, to be sure, but he came nowhere close to reaching his potential. This offseason should prove beneficial for Iupati, as he'll have a chance to work on the intricacies of offensive line play under coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno. He'll also have a lot more time to be alongside Staley and hone the all-important teamwork aspect of the position.Jonathan Goodwin -- When the 49ers decided not to compete with the New York Giants' offer for center David Baas, the club went after Goodwin and signed him to a three-year, 10.9 million contract. Goodwin had the difficult chore of getting acclimated quickly to a new scheme in a short period of time after signing with the club on Aug. 3. The offensive line had its rough spots early in the season, but Goodwin got things ironed out. Because of the responsibilities entrusted to him and his success in getting the unit to work together, he was named the winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award. The honor goes annually to team's offensive lineman who best exemplifies the dedication, excellence and commitment of McKittrick, the longtime coach who died in 2000.Adam Snyder -- When training camp opened, he was competing for the starting job at center. Then, he began splitting time at right guard. Snyder moved full time into right guard at halftime of the 49ers' third game of the season. That began a streak of exceptional play from the offensive line, as running back Frank Gore rushed for 107 yards or more in each of the next five games. Snyder has played every position on the offensive line for the 49ers during his seven-year professional career. Right guard, however, might be his best spot. This was his best season. Snyder is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and the 49ers want to bring him back because of his unique versatility.
Anthony Davis -- He showed up to training camp a little heavy-legged and it took him a while to get going. The lockout might have impacted him more than anyone on the team. But through most of the season, Davis did an acceptable job while starting every game at right tackle. His play gives the 49ers every reason to believe he and Staley can be bookend tackles for a while. Davis had his ups and downs during the course of the season. He excelled in some games, struggled in others. But, mostly, the arrow was pointing up. Like Iupati, Davis should take a huge leap forward in the 2012 season.Chilo Rachal -- He was the only returning starter on the offensive line who did not attend any of the "Camp Alex" sessions at San Jose State during the lockout. He opened training camp as the starter at right guard, but was benched in the third game of the season at Cincinnati after a particularly rough first half. He was used throughout the season in formations in which the 49ers brought in extra blockers. When he replaced an injured Snyder against the Baltimore Ravens, he struggled. A second-round pick in the 2008 draft, Rachal has come nowhere close to playing up to that standard. As an unrestricted free agent, Rachal might need a fresh start elsewhere.Alex Boone -- After signing a reasonable extension through the 2015 season, Boone figures to be the backup swing tackle for quite a while. Boone entered the NFL as an undisciplined, out-of-shape undrafted rookie. He has transformed his body and his life for the positive. He played nearly the entire game against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 13 when Staley was out with a concussion, and he played well. He saw most of his action throughout the season as an extra blocker in short-yardage situations.Daniel Kilgore -- Played one snap as an extra blocker in the Monday night game against the Steelers for his only playing time of his rookie season. The 49ers like Kilgore and are excited about working with him for an entire offseason. He'll have a chance to earn his way into the mix next season at right guard.Mike Person -- The seventh-round pick from Montana State was inactive for all 16 games. His game days consisted of getting on the field a couple hours before game time and working drills with Solari and Drevno at the tackle position, along with Kilgore and practice-squad linemen Chase Beeler and Derek Hall. The 49ers will get a full offseason to evaluate at which position he has his best chance to help the club.

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”