The San Francisco 49ers released offensive linemen Adam Snyder, Ryan Seymour and Carter Bykowski on Saturday. While Jonathan Martin appeared to have the upper-hand on the swing tackle role, those moves only served to reinforce this notion. Additionally, there are still some question marks about Anthony Davis's return from shoulder surgery. Jim Harbaugh was asked about Anthony Davis being available for Week 1, and he simply said, "We'll see." I think we see Davis play, but Harbaugh will keep things close to the vest in the meantime.
I've written a couple of times earlier this offseason about my desire to see Jonathan Martin succeed as a Niner, so I was pretty upset when he had a rough start to the preseason against the Baltimore Ravens. In particular, I remember a play when he pulled off the line and dashed toward the sideline as a lead blocker, only to fall down right before putting on a block. This play seemed to confirm all the unfortunate rumors coming out of training camp - rumors that he had been losing one-on-one match ups to worse players, for example.
Yet, as Matt Maiocco has asserted in his recent article, "Tackle Jonathan Martin re-established himself as an NFL football player this summer." And, you know what, it's true. After noting that Martin's rough start to the preseason may have had a lot to do with Martin's mononucleosis and the lack of conditioning that resulted from the illness, Maiocco quotes Martin as saying "my manta all along has been to control the controllables."
This appropriately grounded mental state has kept Martin on a path of improvement, and now he seems poised to become the backup to both tackle positions. This improvement was not something I expected after the Ravens game, and I really do hope that Martin's difficulties in that game were due to his conditioning problems after his illness.
As I mentioned above, I wrote about Martin earlier this offseason. In the article, I examined Martin's past as a Classics student at Stanford, noting that this level of intellectual rigor makes him an unusual athlete in the NFL. Given the massive problems that seem to be arising at the collegiate level in respect to athletes' academic production, a successful - yet intelligent - football player could make a huge difference in resetting cultural expectations that we attach to athletes.
It's a bit crazy that I attached so much weight to one botched play - falling down and missing a block in the preseason does not a failure make - but I've invested some hopes in Martin now, and really want him to succeed. Now that he has, I think it's worth reminding people how truly intelligent this young man is and how good that can be for this sport.