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.

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent last offseason working with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on his throwing mechanics.

Ryan went on to set career-bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards passing (4,944), touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1).

New 49ers quarterback Matt Barkley worked with House and Dedeaux for the fourth offseason in Southern California before reporting to Santa Clara for the team’s offseason program.

“Kyle (Shanhan) is on board with what House and those guys are doing – I think, really, because of the year Matt Ryan had,” Barkley said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast” on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a believer in that. He saw the benefits of what Matt did with some of his drops and the timing on routes, how he changed his feet on some things. So we’re kind of sticking with that plan. Everyone is a little different, but for the most part we’re all on the same page when it comes to what our drops are looking like, our footwork and how the ball is coming out.”

House is a former major league pitcher and pitching coach who founded the 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles. Dedeaux pitched at USC and is the grandson of USC baseball coaching legend Rod Dedeaux. Former NFL quarterback John Beck is a motion mechanics instructor.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are among the NFL quarterbacks who have worked with 3DQB.

“I believe in those guys and what they’re doing,” Barkley said. “They’re at the top of their game, working with Brady and a bunch of other guys. They’ve helped me.

“He won’t change your throwing motion or really tweak how the ball comes out, but he’s going to try to maximize velocity and ground force production and torque -- a lot of sports science terms. But, really, just maximizing efficiency with your motion and making sure you’re sequencing is right.”

Barkley had never played for Shanahan before signing a two-year contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. But there are two obvious connections. Barkley’s offensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears was Dowell Loggains, Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. The other connection is House.

"It’s kind of funny, he worked with Atlanta’s staff all of last year, helped Matt Ryan, kind of build his base from the ground up and helped him a lot and he had an MVP year," Barkley said of House.

"There may have been talks down the pipeline, who knows. I don’t think that was the deciding factor by any means, but it never hurts.”