49ers Mailbag: O-line much-improved from a year ago

January 25, 2013, 9:15 am
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The 49ers hold their final Bay Area practice on Friday before getting a day off Saturday and flying to New Orleans on Sunday for a week in The Big Easy to prepare for Super Bowl XLVII.

Let's go to the 49ers Mailbag to answer some questions posed to us by our friends on Facebook:

How do you think the two teams have changed since the Thanksgiving game last year? (Patrick Surad)
The most obvious changes are on the 49ers' offense. Of course, the 49ers have a new starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and a new look with the run game with the integration of the read option. But another huge change is along the offensive line with a new starter at right guard. Alex Boone has provided a tremendous upgrade for the 49ers to shore up the line.

Last season, the Baltimore Ravens recorded nine quarterback sacks against the 49ers in the Thanksgiving night game. A couple of those were coverage sacks, but if there was a theme it was that the Ravens were able to exploit the right side of the offensive line.

Chilo Rachal went into the game in the first half when starter Adam Snyder sustained an injury. Rachal was overmatched, both physically and mentally in handling his assignments and working with right tackle Anthony Davis.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, they kicked the (expletive) out of us," Davis said. "It's a different team, man. This O-line is better, just different."

And, then, Davis made a guarantee that probably will not find its way onto any Baltimore bulletin boards: "They're not going to get nine sacks this time."

How much of a difference do you think the two weeks of prep compared to the short week of Thanksgiving will have for the 49ers coaching staff? (Leonard Ng)
Coach Jim Harbaugh was furious when the schedule came out that demanded the 49ers travel three time zones away to play a Thursday night game. Where the lack of preparation showed most dramatically was in the 49ers' pass protection.

Then-Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano came at the 49ers with an array of twists and stunts and blitzes, mostly on the right side, to take advantage of Rachal -- and, perhaps, the team's loss of three preparation days.

There are no excuses this time. Both teams will have an opportunity to put together a well-conceived and choreographed game plan for Super Bowl XLVII.

Any update on Justin Smith? (Randy Quilici)
He is practicing fully, and he'll be as close to 100 percent as a person with a partially torn triceps tendon can possible be seven weeks after sustaining the injury. Smith will require offseason surgery.

When asked if he has considered retirement after the Super Bowl, Smith said he takes it "year to year."


Will we have any player who won't play on Super Bowl? (Pedro Henrique Silva)
There are 53 players on the roster, but only 46 of them are allowed to suit up for the Super Bowl. But everybody will be available to play. There are no injuries that are expected to prevent someone from playing in this game.

On Friday, both teams are required to submit an injury report. Expect outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (shoulder) to be listed as "questionable." Don't be concerned, though. He played most of Sunday's NFC Championship Game with the discomfort, and he had three big plays in the fourth quarter. He'll be ready to play on Feb. 3.

Will the Niners hold private practice sessions after arriving in New Orleans or will it be treated as a bye week? (Justin Mathis)
The 49ers are getting three bonus practices this week. Next week, they'll have a usual practice week in New Orleans. That means practices Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Those practices will be closed, of course. However, because it's Super Bowl week, one national pool reporter is assigned to cover those practices.

John Clayton of ESPN is assigned to attend the 49ers' practices Wednesday through Friday. Professional Football Writers of America president Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News has assigned me to cover the 49ers' Saturday practice, the team's final practice before Super Bowl XLVII. My duty is to file a report concerning the physical condition of players on each team and general description of the daily work schedule. Peter King is assigned to the Ravens' practices.

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