Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
A look at the o-line's merit this year.
After absorbing the huge list of 49ers who have been named to the Pro Bowl in some way, I think one of the most amazing aspects of this year's selection is that all five of our starting linemen are somehow involved with the Pro Bowl. The left side (strong side!) of the line claims both starters, with OT Joe Staley and OG Mike Iupati named as starters. Conversely, though, the right side got a little over too - both OG Alex Boone and OT Anthony Davis were named alternatives. And, the big meat in the o-line sandwich, C Jonathan Goodwin, is also an alternate.
The merits of our line is its run blocking. According to Football Outsiders, the 49ers' o-line is second best in the league at run blocking. This comes from, I think, the sheer athleticism of the line. These are pretty agile blockers. I still get giddy watching Iupati pull across the line and lay down some huge blocks, bursting open holes for the running game. That said, everybody on the line can run block. Alex Boone, in fact, has been a revelation at guard this year. He is a nasty blocker, and his competent play has allowed Anthony Davis to flourish at the tackle position. Davis no longer has to compensate for the shoddy play of his o-line neighbor - even if there is still room for improvement on Davis' part.
Iupati and Boone are impressive guards, however, not just because they can block the man in front of them, but because they move to the second level in such an impressive manner. They are always walling off linebackers seven yards downfield. I've never seen a line that could block this well at the second level as a unit before. In fact, Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers' o-line as the best down field blockers in the NFL.
This line absolutely has its weaknesses, though - weaknesses that warrant a few players to be named as alternates rather than starters. The major weakness is easily pass protection. Again, if we look at Football Outsiders, the 49ers are ranked at a piss poor 31 in the NFL, having given up 40 sacks with an 8.9% adjusted sack rate. That's pretty bad. A lot of that has to do with Alex Smith holding on to the football for too long and with Colin Kaepernick trying to spin away from outside blitzes for a 15 yard loss about once a game. We can't blame the whole o-line for the sacks. That said, it is pretty clear that the line has a weakness when it comes to pass protection.