San Francisco 49ers, 2010 Year-In-Review: Offensive Line and Pass Protection

As the San Francisco 49ers begin the Jim Harbaugh era in earnest, there are a lot of issues from 2010 that will have to be addressed as the team moves forward and attempts to rise from the ashes of a hideous 2010 season. I don't expect the kind of wholesale changes we seemed to see in Seattle this past season given that Trent Baalke was technically operating in a quasi-GM capacity prior to his promotion. I expect some changes as Jim Harbaugh provides his input, but I'd imagine a sizable chunk of the roster will continue into next year.

An area that had some issues in 2010 was the offensive line. There were a whole lot of low and high points as it was as much a roller-coaster ride as anything else on this team in 2010. As the 49ers move towards 2011, let's take a quick look back at the numbers for the offensive line as far as pass protection is concerned. The team is instituting a new offense that will need solid pass protection if it's going to work.

After the jump I've listed out sacks, adjusted sacks, and adjusted sack rate with rankings in parenthesis followed by 2009 rank and info.

Pass Protection
Sacks: 44 (t-26th - 2009 rank: 22nd, 40)
Sack Yards Lost: 257 yards (22nd - 2009 rank: 18th, 241 yards)
Adjusted Sacks/Rate: 44/8.9% (30th - 2009 rank: 40/8.1%, 26th)

Adjusted Sack Rate is Football Outsiders stat for figuring out a team's pass blocking. They describe it as follows:

Teams are ranked according to adjusted sack rate, which gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.

One drawback to both general sacks and adjusted sacks is that we don't see anything for hurries that lead to incompletions, throwing the ball away, interceptions, and even check-downs. We have to go with what we've got but knowing some of that other information and where the 49ers ranked would be fairly valuable. I'd imagine they probably rank poorly in many of those categories, but it'd still be interesting to know for certain.

Either way, the 49ers offensive line struggled this year. Some of that was due to changes in personnel because of injury, some was due to having a pair of rookies on the line, and some of that was due to basic poor play. It will be interesting to see how Coach Harbaugh utilizes the offensive line talent currently on the roster. As is, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, David Baas and Joe Staley would all seem set for next year. We might see a little bit of competition at their positions, but they're clear favorites and the competition might be as wide-open as the recently-concluded GM search.

Although the team has some issues at right guard at this point, the existing four-some that will occupy the other spots will hopefully get a full training camp to further their chemistry. I'm particularly intrigued to see how Davis and Iupati develop (or at least hopefully develop) in their second year. They were basically thrown into the deep end of the pool without any floaties. There were several times they appeared to go under, but they managed to keep their head above water by season's end.

Mike Iupati has already received praise for his performance this season, ending up on Pro Football Weekly's All-Rookie Team. Some folks had concerns about him coming from a less prestigious football program, but he's shown some serious skills in his first season. On the other side you've got Anthony Davis. While he had his share of struggles, he also flashed serious brilliance at times. He's young and raw, but I think he took important steps forward in his rookie season.

Really I'm as excited to see their year two performance as I am most anything else. The 2011 San Francisco 49ers will be very interesting given all the changes, but it's these two holdovers that will have my attention as well.

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