The offensive line is quickly becoming one of the 49ers most significant strengths. This is absolutely amazing considering where this unit stood in 2009. Enter in two 1st round picks, a pro bowl center,and maturity from a few different players, and you have an extremely solid unit.
This unit is so good that there really aren't a lot of battles taking place in regards to the starting positions. Four starters are pretty much etched in stone, while the right guard position appears to be up for battle.
It is pretty obvious that Anthony Davis, Jonathan Goodwin, Mike Iupati and Joe Staley will be four of the five San Francisco 49er starters, barring injury, when camp breaks. So, I am going to take a look at the other guard position as well as a couple back up positions that are up for battle.
Chilo Rachal: There has been a lot of frustration with Rachal's play over the last couple of seasons. He appeared to be a steal in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. The former USC Trojan started six games as a rookie and played real well as he did for the first half of the 2009 season. However, he has struggled in both pass protection and run blocking since.
There is a lot of talent there and I hope co-offensive line coaches, Mike Solari and Tom Drevno, can bring it out in him. He has the size and athletic ability to be an above average guard in the NFL. Rachal's strength is at the point of contact where he is able to keep defenders off balance. He has enormous upper body strength and is able to pile drive opposing defensive tackles, who in most circumstances are smaller than him.
However, his issue has been technique and understanding defensive alignment. He is beat too often when asked to role around and move around in fluxing offensive line motions. Moving forward, if Rachal can get these aspects of his game down I have no doubt he can and will be a solid guard in the NFL. That said, time is running out for him and 2011 could be a make or break season.
Adam Snyder: Snyder, who has made a lot of fans this training camp season, is a jack of all trades. He has played tackle and guard during his first six seasons in the NFL. Now, he is taking first team snaps as a center and becoming a leader a long the offensive line. With the addition of Jonathan Goodwin, Snyder will once again be moved around. You can expect him to challenge Rachal for the right guard position in the coming weeks.
Snyder's versatility is huge plus a long this offensive line. If he does start at right guard, Rachal, strictly a guard, will be backing him up. However, it is an easy transition to put Rachal in for Snyder and move the latter around if an injury were to occur.
Prior to training camp, a lot of people had questions in regards to Snyder's ability to be a starting offensive linemen in the NFL. These concerns have not gone away, however, his willingness to assume a leadership role has been huge for this unit. I personally, believe that San Francisco would be better off to have his experience and leadership starting aside from the raw Anthony Davis.
Primary Backup Positions
T- Alex Boone: If it weren't for off the field issues and character concerns Boone would have been, at the very least, a mid round pick following a stellar career at Ohio State. However, those concerns cost him a chance of being drafted. Well, every other teams loss is the 49ers gain; Boone has shown the ability to be a true starting tackle in the NFL.
He has the size, strength and athletics ability to succeed. Reports out of camp indicate that Boone has also improved drastically in terms of technique. It was reported earlier this week that San Francisco wasn't going to be bring Barry Sims back, instead they are going to go with Boone as the primary backup at the tackle position.
If Anthony Davis struggles early on it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Boone could replace him.
G/C- Tony Wragge: He has been a solid backup offensive linemen for the 49ers since going undrafted in 2002. In fact, Wragge started 10 games for San Francisco at right guard in 2008. He has the ability to play both guard and center, while even seeing time at tackle.
You are looking at a player who could come in and contribute a long the offensive line if needed. He brings valuable versatility and experience to a rather young offensive line.
G/C- Daniel Kilgore: The rookie 5th round pick from Appalachian State anchored one of the better offensive lines in all of college football last season. He was a stud up the middle, but played against weak competition. I am looking forward to seeing him play this preseason; there is a possibility that he will start Friday Night due to injuries.
T/G- Mike Person: One of the most amazing stats in the 2011 draft was the fact that Person did not allow a single sack for Montana State last season while playing on the outside. Of course, that wasn't incredibly difficult competition and there hasn't been much said about him during training camp. Another player I am going to have my eye on during the preseason.
Chase Beeler: A lot was said about Beeler possibly making the 49er 53 man roster after David Baas bolted for the Giants and before the 49ers replaced him with Jonathan Goodwin. Now, it seems that it would be a long shot for Beeler to make the roster. He was an All-American center for Stanford in 2010 and has been an extremely solid performer. My hope is that Beeler is able to sit on the practice squad and bulk up a bit. In my opinion he is a future starter at center in the NFL.
Derek Hall: Another former Stanford starter, Hall was actually higher rated on most pre-draft boards than both Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person. He has limited experience as a starter, only being on Stanford's first team as a Senior, but Hall has extremely raw physical and athletic ability. Another candidate for the practice squad.
My Offensive Line Depth Chart
T- Joe Staley
G- Mike Iupatai
C- Jonathan Goodwin
G- Adam Snyder
T- Anthony Davis
1. Alex Boone
2. Chilo Rachal
3. Tony Wragge
4. Daniel Kilgore
5. Mike Person
6. Chase Beeler
7. Derek Hall
Analysis: The 49ers will probably carry nine offensive linemen heading into the 2011 season. This means that you will have Mike Person, Chase Beeler and Derek Hall fighting for the final spot in the unit. It isn't etched in stone that Person will make the roster just because he was drafted. Some of the players that went undrafted in April are going to have more successful NFL careers than those drafted in the final two or three rounds. I fully expect Harbaugh to look intently on which player brings the most upside and versatility to the final offensive line position. If that is the case, you can expect Person to make the roster. He has the ability to play both tackle and guard. This cannot be said for Beeler, who is strictly a center, or Hall who is strictly a tackle.