2009 San Francisco 49ers: Welcome to your first game week!

For the second to last time this season (bye week is the other), we enter a Monday without a 49ers game to break down.  It may only be the preseason, but if you can't get excited about that, well maybe you should be checking out this blog.  Otherwise, welcome to the jungle that is the 49ers 2009 season.

The 49ers did not have a practice yesterday, but rather had the morning off and a "light walk through" in the afternoon.  I'm not sure what a training camp walk through is like exactly.  Maybe it's the opportunity to practice the little things they have to do off the field in preparation for each game.  Practice those hotel check-ins, practice putting on equipment?  Who knows.

However, the two Matts had what are probably the most important articles to date for your 49ers fix.  This is particularly so heading into the first preseason game week of the season.  Barrows provided us with three who've looked good and three who've looked bad.  Maiocco took it just a small step forward breaking down every single player on offense!  I'm guessing tomorrow he's going to cover the defense.  Given that he's been at pretty much every practice, he's definitely one of the best sources for realistic thoughts on each player.

I'm thinking we can use this to start getting an idea of what to look for this coming Friday night.  Given that this is the preseason opener, nobody really cares about the score.  Most of us are excited to see the training camp battles take a big step forward.  We haven't heard much about the offensive line in practice, so I thought we'd concentrate on that for now.  Given the past struggles, one could argue the offensive line is as important to the success of this offense as anything else.

After the jump we break down the big battles at offensive tackle and potentially left guard...

There are a couple things to keep an eye on with the offensive line.  Offensive tackle as a whole has a lot of interesting things to look at on Friday, even with Joe Staley locked in at left tackle.  Staley will get a series or two in this Friday.  Other than that there will be a LOT to keep an eye on.  We've got Marvel Smith, Adam Snyder and Alex Boone battling for a variety of playing time.  I exclude Barry Sims because as with Damon Huard, what else can we possibly learn about a 34 year old offensive tackle?

First there's Alex Boone.  According to MM, he's been "solid in run-blocking but not as consistent with his feet in pass protection."  Barring a claim on waivers, he's at least guaranteed a spot on the 49ers practice squad.  However, he'll be looking to show the coaching staff he can be reliable as a backup, potentially over Barry Sims.  There's no way both of them are kept on the 53-man roster.

While Joe Staley will likely come off the field relatively quickly, I'd imagine whomever starts at right tackle will see a good deal more playing time.  Given how things have played out so far, Snyder will probably start the game.  Given the importance of determining that starter, I'd imagine Snyder could play upwards of a quarter and a half, with Marvel Smith following through the end of the third quarter.  In Maiocco's rundown of the offensive line, he basically pointed out that Smith hasn't risen up to take the job and Snyder is battling to hold on to it.  This first game will either narrow the race or allow Snyder to take a huge step forward.

The other area of interest has become the left guard position.  David Baas sprained his foot and Maiocco indicated he very well may miss the exhibition opener.  Tony Wragge has been practicing in his place and would get the start if needed.  Last season Wragge started the first ten games of the season at right guard before being replaced by Chilo Rachal.  As MM put it, "[Wragge] appears determined to make it a difficult decision on the coaching staff when Baas is healthy."

The good news in all of this is that Chilo Rachal, Joe Staley and Eric Heitmann have looked solid in camp.  The key is keeping them in sync for the regular season, but also, very, very healthy.

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