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49ers mid-season review: Offensive line

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The San Francisco 49ers offensive line entered the 2014 season with a handful of questions. We consider whether those questions have been answered, and what to look for moving forward.

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Doug Pensinger

The San Francisco 49ers are closing in on the end of their bye week, and will be returning to practice on Monday. We are not exactly halfway through the season, but the timing of the bye is close enough that it makes sense to take a look at where everything stands. We will be going through each position over the next week. Thus far we have looked at the quarterbacksrunning backs, and wide receivers. Today, we move on to the offensive line.

Starters: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Marcus Martin (maybe)
Reserves: Joe Looney, Jonathan Martin, Dillon Farrell
Practice squad: OT Carter Bykowski, OG Andrew Tiller
IR: C Daniel Kilgore, OG Fou Fonoti
NFI: OG Brandon Thomas

Football Outsiders

Adjusted Line Yards: 3.86 (22nd)
Power Success: 32nd
Stuffed: 27th
2nd level yards: 17th
Open field yards: 23rd
Adjusted sack rate: 26th

Advanced Football Analytics

WPA: 25th
EPA: 25th

Pro Football Focus

Pass blocking efficiency: 26th
Grades (overall, pass block, run block, penalty) - rank by position
Staley: 2.7, 0.0, 3.3, -1.1 - 20 out of 59
Iupati: 6.2, -4.8, 10.9, 0.1 - 7 out of 59
Kilgore: 4.6, -1.2, 5.1, 0.7 - 9 out of 32
Boone: -4.2, -3.3, -1.6, 1.2 - 38 out of 59
Davis: -2.1, -2.3, 0.8, -0.6
Martin: -6.8, -3.9, -2.0, -0.4 - 46 out of 59

The 49ers entered the season with three questions on the offensive line:

1) How would Daniel Kilgore fare in place of Jonathan Goodwin

Kilgore did a great job in place of Goodwin, and might have been the team's most consistent lineman prior to his injury last Sunday. He had some ups and downs week to week, but for the most part, he was a capable center. He suffered the break to his upper ankle, which was described as being similar to the injury Ian Williams suffered last year. That mean a long recovery, and depending on how many surgeries Kilgore needs, he could be a question mark heading into training camp next year.

In the meantime, Marcus Martin gets the first crack at the starting lineup. He is considered a very talented center, but now he has to show his knees are healthy and he can handle the workload at center. Alex Boone gets a lot of the signaling work, so I'm not overly concerned about that, but the snaps between center and quarterback will be something to track from the get-go. Martin very well could prove to be an upgrade now or at some point in the future, but we have to wait and see how well he does coming out of the gates. Kilgore was in his first year as a starting center, but he spent all last season learning behind Jonathan Goodwin. Martin has an offseason and the first seven weeks observing and learning from Kilgore. This will be interesting, to say the least.

2) When would Anthony Davis return from his shoulder surgery

It has been a disappointing season for the 49ers right tackle. He worked his way back from the shoulder injury, only to suffer a hamstring injury late in the preseason. He then worked his way back from that, only to suffer a sprained MCL. He got back from that fairly quickly, and was starting this past Sunday against the Broncos. Davis was clearly a bit rusty, and one can only hope he shakes that rust off sooner rather than later.

Speaking of rust.....

3) When would Alex Boone end his holdout?

He was back in time for the start of the season, albeit not getting into the starting lineup until Week 2. Boone struggled through the first six weeks, but he did bounce back with a solid game in Week 7. He needs to build on that over the bye, and hopefully it was a matter of just shaking off the rust following his holdout.

The offensive line as a whole has struggled to get everybody playing at the same time. Staley is the only player on the current offensive line to start every game, and he's struggled with consistency. Everybody on the line has had their strong moments, but they have been mixed in with poor performances.

The line has the bye week to get everybody on the same page, and hopefully provide a line that will be playing together through the end of the season. Iupati is coming back from his concussion, and Davis will hopefully shake off the last of the rust from missing much of the first seven weeks of the season. If they can do that, and Marcus Martin can show competence as an NFL center, this line should be able to improve. I think it will even benefit Joe Staley to have some consistency across the line. He has struggled at times, but I do wonder how much of that has come from the occasional shuffling at various points on the line.