2011 49ers Grades: Isaac Sopoaga

Kind of a Heisman pose there by the big-fella. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Continuing our look back at the 2011 season and evaluating each player's performance, we come to another team and fan favorite. Isaac Sopoaga has always been a guy that motivates the guys on the team. He's easy going and fun off the field, often playing loud music in the locker room and trying to get guys going.

On the field 2011 was arguably the best season for "Soap" (or "Ice" if you prefer). Not only did he become the starting nose tackle (NT) as Aubrayo Franklin left in free agency, but he also saw considerable time on offense. As if this wasn't enough, "The Ice Truck" also caught a pass and took it down the field in one of two plays Greg Roman called that were designed to go to big-men...the other going to Joe Staley.

He was regularly called upon to be a lead blocker in short yardage situations, sometimes pairing with a FB or even an offensive lineman to create over 600lbs. of beef leading the charge in the hole. I'd say he did an OK job, but he can improve his blocking even more if he get's the chance.

Soap also helped anchor one of the NFL's best defenses in 2011 providing stout run support in clogging the middle of the line. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman both earned not only Pro Bowl spots, but were also each named to the NFL's All Pro team in 2011. Linebackers don't have those kind of seasons without help from the big guys up front.

After the jump we take a look at Sopoaga's stats for the year.

Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2011 - Isaac Sopoaga 11 0 0 0 0 0 20 11 31

Defensively Soap's stats aren't eye-popping, but he's a nose tackle. His job is to make it easy for other guys to make the tackle. Granted Vic Fangio went to a one-gap defense in his first year (where the defensive linemen are to penetrate rather than clog and hold the point), but 31 tackles is a decent number for a 3-4 NT.

Again, he also had the 18 yard reception for a first down against the Cleveland Browns and was in on a lot of blocking for a defensive player. Without the stats on-hand, I'd venture to guess Soap played more offensive snaps than any other defensive starter in the NFL by a wide margin.

All-in-all I'm glad that losing Franklin didn't mean the defense suffered and a big reason for that was Isaac Sopoaga stepping-up and producing.

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