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2011 49ers Grades: Alex Boone

Yesterday we go the 2011 49ers grades going with a look back at the season that was for David Akers. I'm assuming the people that gave him a 1 or 2 were either trying to be funny, drunk, thought it was opposite day (it was not) or hate life. Either way, the 94% of 9s and 10s says it all for Akers, who had a career year in keeping the 49ers offense afloat.

Today, we move on to our first backup player. No matter what position, starters are generally able to assess, even if there are drastically conflicting opinions about the players performance. When you look at backups, the assessment is a bit more difficult since the body of work is so limited. Today we take a look at backup offensive tackle Alex Boone.

Boone has had a pretty impressive journey to reach his spot this past season. The 49ers signed Boone as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and he spent the entire season on the practice squad. He came back in great shape in 2010 and earned his way onto the 53-man roster, making his NFL debut in the team's season finale. The 49ers were confident enough in his abilities that they replaced Barry Sims with Boone as their swing tackle.

Boone had a bit of a bizarre season at times. He actually received a solid amount of playing time, but it was more because the 49ers used him frequently in short yardage situations as a tackle eligible. The 49ers loved rolling out their jumbo formations and Boone was a frequent part of that. At some point this offseason I wouldn't mind going back and looking at the plays where they used the jumbo formation just to see how it worked out rolling with extra linemen beyond just the yards gained on the play.

Boone's most extensive playing time in a traditional offensive lineman's role was December 11 against the Arizona Cardinals. Joe Staley suffered a head injury in the first quarter and Boone replaced him for the rest of the game. Boone gained some additional playing time against the Steelers when Staley suffered a second half leg injury.

Boone was solid enough in place of Staley, but given how limited his opportunities were as a starting tackle, the simplest analysis is that he was there when the team needed him to step in. The 49ers seem pleased with his development as they signed him to a four-year contract extension through the 2015 season.

Do you see Boone settling in as the swing tackle, or will we see him potentially move into the starting lineup? If so, how soon? Anthony Davis showed progress in year two, in spite of the lockout preventing sufficient offseason activities. It will be interesting to see how opportunities are doled out in 2012 following a full normal offseason for the younger offensive linemen.