I know it's an odd thing to consider: one week after playing against the Minnesota Vikings, we should be using the defensive line of the Oakland Raiders to measure the progress and talents of our rookie offensive lineman, but bear with me a little bit.
Minnesota's defensive line, with the exception of Jared Allen, does not exude the finesse of Oakland's line. I think the rookie's contended well with the starting unit against the Vikings (despite some bad plays later on in the game which appear to be an anomaly) and I am more than a little confident in Mike Iupati and getting there (let's call it "day-to-day,") with Anthony Davis when it comes to dealing with big beasts on the defensive line.
But Oakland, for all of their flaws, for all of the shortcomings that we as 49ers fans love to point out simply because, let's face it, Raiders fans are absolutely crazy (no really, Raiders fans will stab your baby), actually have a pretty underrated defense, and that fact, other than standout corner Nnamdi Asomugha (I would seriously do a number of unspeakable horrors to have that guy on the 49ers) is due largely in part to the defensive line. Jump for more.I'm kind of blogging in circles here, but what I'm trying to say, in so many words, is that Oakland's line presents new challenges for this line. Rookie LaMarr Houston and second year Matt Shaughnessy cut through the offensive lines of the Cowboys and the Bears like a knife through.. well, completely melted butter.
Against the Cowboys, Houston got through on seemingly every play, from the end and the defensive tackle positions. Shaughnessy caused enough havoc to keep the run away from him and Richard Seymour commanded the double team. They were the stars of the game and constantly hounded the quarterbacks and punished running backs in their extended playing time.
At Soldier Field, Houston didn't have as much of a good game, but that's mostly due to the fact that he commanded the respect of a double team. Even then, he still had good penetration and was simultaneously four handfuls for the Bears' offensive line. Shaughnessy was a bit more quiet, but did get a lot of good penetration.
These guys will be doing their best to prove themselves off of the 49ers rookies. It will be interesting to see how Davis and Iupati handle LaMarr Houston, who just seems like a fantastic pick right now. Richard Seymour, if he plays, will be a handful for anyone on that line. The only player I think could handle him with some regularity right now is Joe Staley, and that's more of a matchup thing than anything.
So I guess what I'm getting at is that this is probably the most important game so far for the rookie o-linemen, especially when you factor in that Oakland's starters will be playing longer than Minnesota's did. If I had to pick, though, I'm going with our rookies. I think they'll be good enough to contend with this line, and I think they'll do it well enough to keep outside linebacker and apparent beast incarnate Kamerion Wimbley at bay as well.