49ers review: Offensive line

49ers review: Offensive line
February 3, 2012, 7:39 pm
Share This Post

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.

More Team Talk