Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
Alex Boone was an exciting swing tackle prospect not so long ago. More accurately, he was an exciting, gigantic and very raw swing tackle prospect not so long ago. Boone quickly turned into the guy who was "clearly too big" to man either guard position, and from there quickly turned into one of the best interior linemen in football.
His "rookie" right guard campaign was 2012, in which he beat out Leonard Davis for the starting gig. From the get-go, he instantly improved the play of right tackle Anthony Davis and quickly out-played him. That said, I think his play helped Davis grow significantly. Boone's strong play has allowed Davis to concentrate further on dealing with the speed rushers that have given him problems since he was a rookie.
In 2012, Boone was among the best run-blockers in the NFL, and was no slouch in pass protection, either. He graded out as one of the top three run-blockers from Pro Football Focus. In 2013, it was a lot more of the same (though I do not have those exact figures in front of me). I will note one particular performance that I thought was especially solid, though.
In Week 13, the St. Louis Rams primarily had pass-rusher Robert Quinn on Boone. Joe Staley had handled Quinn, one of the most prolific pass-rushers in the NFL over the past couple seasons, handily in the first game, but sustained an injury on the opening drive. Boone handled him the same in the rematch, just as well as Staley did, if not better. It was one of Quinn's worst pass-rushing performances of the season.
That game saw Quinn only earn three hurries, and please keep in mind that both Joe Looney and Adam Snyder took significant snaps in that game. Boone's performance in that game may have been one of the most impressive 49ers performances of the season.
Needless to say, I'm a big fan of Boone. He was excellent all throughout 2013, simple as that.
Why he might improve:
Boone recently turned 27 years old and is coming off a fantastic season. There's no reason to think he shouldn't improve. This is a position he's only been playing for two seasons now, so of course there's plenty of room to grow. Getting a new center -- potentially rookie Marcus Martin -- could wind up being an upgrade from Jonathan Goodwin in the end, which would also help Boone improve.
Why he might regress:
Aliens, probably. But realistically, if anybody out there believes that Boone has hit his ceiling, then he can either coast along or fall down. We can't expect him to turn into some super-guard, so anything worse than his 2013 campaign can technically be called a regression. But realistically, I think injuries would be about the only thing that could lead to lacking play in 2014.
Odds of making the roster:
I'd go as far as to say that aside from Joe Staley, Boone's job on the offensive line is the most secure. He's here to stay, and that's a good, good thing for the 49ers. Once gain, I'm going to have to turn to "aliens" to answer to the possibility of him not making the roster.