When thinking about the San Francisco 49ers‘ offense, names like Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore instantly come to mind. But if it weren’t for the big guys up front, none of the skill players would experience much success.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, the 49ers’ offensive line will provide them with a major advantage among the competition.
Every team has its strengths, but for San Francisco, their offensive line is not only great, it’s elite. Most teams may have one or two solid pieces up front, but the 49ers have an embarrassment of riches at the position.
Their pass blocking is one of the best in the NFL, but their run blocking is what sets them apart. Since 2011, San Francisco has averaged 4.6 yards per carry and 141.75 rushing yards per game. While offensive coordinator Greg Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh have devised schemes to run effectively, the players deserve a lot of credit.
Joe Staley, who has been a 49er since 2007, is the centerpiece of the offensive line. There are very few, if any, left tackles who have the ability to protect his quarterback’s blindside and pave lanes for running backs like he can. In each of the past two seasons, he has made the Pro Bowl and All Pro team. Still just 28 years old, Staley has a long, productive career ahead of him.
Taken in the 2010 NFL Draft by former 49ers head coach Mike Singletary, right tackle Anthony Davis and left guard Mike Iupati are distinguishing themselves as two of the top linemen in the league. At 23 and 25 respectively, the first-round picks are just getting started in becoming perennial All-Pros.
Standing at 6’8’’, right guard Alex Boone is an imposing presence on the field. After going undrafted in 2009 due to character concerns, the Ohio State product has made strides in both his life and career. Last year, Boone worked his way up the depth chart, starting all 16 games. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
The eldest member of the offensive line is center Jonathan Goodwin. Since arriving in the Bay two years ago, Goodwin has performed well after coming over from the New Orleans Saints. The veteran was a member of the Saints championship team in 2009 and has helped establish a winning culture with the 49ers. After playing 11 years, his knowledge should only accelerate the growth of his younger linemates as they enter another season together.
Having all five starters return is a major plus for San Francisco. As a group, they should remain one of the league’s top offensive lines given their blend of chemistry and talent. With four of the five starters still in their twenties, this road-grading unit has a chance to be special for many seasons.
That spells trouble for NFL defenses.