San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Mike Iupati is well on his way to the Pro Bowl, but he's having something of a penalty problem this season.
Despite a rough couple games since the quarterback change, the 49ers' offensive line has been one of the best in the NFL. No one player is doing poorly on a consistent basis, with only a few bad performances mixed among the dominant showings.
Some of the poor recent outings can be blamed on a lack of cohesiveness due to a switch to Colin Kaepernick, a very different quarterback than Alex Smith, or they can simply be blamed on a bad game (like Anthony Davis getting mauled by Cameron Wake in Week 14). Again though, the line has been superb.
All of the starters on the offensive line are in the top five of their positions when it comes to the Pro Bowl voting. Last season, only Joe Staley made it to the Pro Bowl (despite having something of a poor year), while Mike Iupati and Jonathan Goodwin were named as alternates.
Suffice to say, I think the majority of us are satisfied with the offensive line this year. Some have called it the best in football, and I wouldn't be one to argue. But one area where they're not the best? Penalties.
Penalties, as a whole, have been a problem for the 49ers this year. Jim Harbaugh's team may be innovative from time to time, but a lack of disciplined execution has led to penalty after penalty, killing drives and ruining momentum, which in turn leads to lost games.
Staley has five penalties, which is par the course from this particular leader of the line. He's done some growing up since we drafted him, but he'll likely be called on false start and holding penalties with regularity until he retires. I've given up on expecting him to move past that phase.
The most troubling stat regarding penalties, though, are those from Iupati. He's been penalized a whopping nine times (with one declined). Coming into the NFL, Iupati was touted as one of the best guard prospects in years, with the ability to start and make an impact right away.
He definitely did that and continues to do that. But nine penalties is an awful lot, and marks a clear regression for what appears to be a future Pro Bowl guard. Iupati leads all guards in votes for the Pro Bowl, and though he obviously won't play in the game (due to San Francisco's obvious schedule conflict), he'll more-than likely earn the honors.
Still, if playing penalty-free football was given a lot of weight in the voting, Iupati might not make it. As a fan, it's a little worrying to see this. When he was drafted, I definitely didn't expect to think, every time I'd see a flag on the field, "Well, Iupati just got called for holding again ..."
Below, here's the number of penalties for the 49ers' starting offensive linemen. It's worth noting that Alex Boone, the guy who is starting at a new position and is basically a rookie, has only two penalties on the season. Davis has four penalties, which is down significantly, given that he had 11 in his rookie season and eight last season
Mike Iupati: 9 penalties (1 declined)
Joe Staley: 5 penalties
Anthony Davis: 4 penalties
Jonathan Goodwin: 3 penalties
Alex Boone: 2 penalties
Iupati's nine penalties are second most among all interior offensive linemen (counting center) (Mike Briesel- 9, Willie Colon- 12), and seventh among all offensive linemen overall, not counting ties. He is the 49ers' most-penalized player on either side of the ball, with Aldon Smith (7) and C.J. Spillman (7) bringing up the rear. He has more penalties than all of San Francisco's running backs, tight ends and wide receivers combined.
His nine penalties are more than his first two seasons in the NFL combined (8). Since 2007, only one offensive lineman on the 49ers managed more penalties, when Anthony Davis had 11 in his rookie season (2010).