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NFL offensive lines coming under the microscope

The 49ers offensive line is a mess right now, but this is not just a 49ers problem. Teams around the NFL are facing issues.

The San Francisco 49ers offensive line is struggling mightily this season. Joe Staley and Alex Boone are two stalwarts, but even their play has suffered trying to make up for poor performances by Marcus Martin, Jordan Devey and Erik Pears. The last two weeks those three have had performances ranging from inconsistent to awful.

It is easy to get bogged in the problems facing the 49ers, but offensive line issues are a problem for quite a few teams. The Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams are two specific examples within the NFC West. The Arizona Cardinals had some questions about their line, but through three weeks it has held up fairly well.

But these are just a couple examples of problems around the league. In some rather fortuitous timing, a couple different articles dropped today about offensive line problems. SI's Greg Bedard attended an offensive line coaching clinic this offseason, and posted the first half of his transcript. ESPN's Kevin Seifert posted a lengthy article discussing the "O-line epidemic" facing the league right now.

The articles provide a variety of theories as to why offensive line play is struggling in the NFL. One common answer relates to the CBA restricting time for padded practices during the offseason. Full contact work is the best way for offensive linemen to improve, so I certainly do get that. They have four preseason games, but the work is otherwise a bit limited. There is a tough balance to strike when it comes to the physical nature of the game.

Another common answer is the rise in spread offenses. Offensive linemen are using different techniques to operate in hurry-up, spread offenses. This combined with the lack of extra padded practices certainly could provide a pretty good reason for general issues.

Part of the 49ers problem was that they did not put together their current starting offensive line until the final week of the preseason. Talent deficiencies aside, how is an offensive line supposed to come together that quickly for the start of the regular season?