The cacophony of fans and analysts alike clamoring for help on the offensive line for the San Francisco 49ers was fairly aggressive after last season.
For a 13-3 team that had few deficiencies in 2011, this was one area of the team that actually deserved scrutiny.
Opposing defenses sacked quarterback Alex Smith 44 times, good (or bad) for 25th in the league. Great blocking for Frank Gore and his brethren, but not always for the man handing the ball off.
Clearly susceptible to the pass rush, what are the implications heading into 2012?
How will Alex Boone fare in his newfound starting role at right guard? Will Jonathan Goodwin (center) remain healthy for the majority of the year? Can the talented Anthony Davis capitalize on his skill set and prove his worth at the right outside edge?
Mere speculation at this point—that’s for sure. However, for the purposes of this article, it’s worth investigating into the inner workings of the most unheralded position set on the field.
Joe Staley (LT): Mr. Staley earned his first nod for the Pro Bowl this past season. Unless he succumbs to former injury tendencies of 2009-2010, he’ll continue his progression as one of the better blind-side protectors in the NFL.
Mike Iupati (LG): The argument of “one of the better” does not apply here. The resident Samoan is a pure mauler in every sense of the word. Athleticism, man strength, high football IQ—watch for Iupati to enter the discussion of the best in the NFL.
Jonathan Goodwin (C): As reliable as he was for the most part of last season, Goodwin allowed the most sacks (5) out of any center. The quarterback of this offensive line is a fluid run-blocker and solid overall player, but will surely be a focal point of potential derision. Backup Daniel Kilgore is the future at this position.
Alex Boone (RG): This position will be the most scrutinized out of any along the Red and Gold’s front line. Boone is the tentative starter at this point after Adam Snyder signed with the Cardinals as a free agent (reason for the italics). He looks every part of an offensive tackle (6’8”, 300 lbs), but will operate the interior in 2012. Developing chemistry with his fellow linemen is the greatest necessity at this point. If Boone succeeds, so will the rest of Niners O-line.
Anthony Davis (RT): Davis did not produce a very noteworthy campaign last year. Pro Football Focus graded him the 57th-ranked offensive tackle. His proficency in pass protection was not commensurate with his performance as a run blocker on the move. He surrendered eight sacks and gave up another 30 QB hurries. Davis must fulfill his first-round talent to ensure that Alex Smith has the neccessary time to hit all the new 49er receivers.