Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
The San Francisco 49ers have invested a whole lot into their offensive line over the last several years, and that's typically translated to success in both run blocking and pass blocking. First-round picks have been spent on guys like Joe Staley, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati. All three of those guys have played pretty well over the years, though Iupati has since departed for greener pastures.
By and large, the 49ers have been a team with a strong offensive line. Throughout lineup changes, coaching changes and general instability, I've been happy with what they've been able to put on the field from a blocking standpoint. Each week during the regular season, I break down the sacks allowed by the team because I legitimately enjoy offensive line play above all else.
Last season ... I enjoyed it quite a bit less, because the 49ers really struggled. They didn't pass block well and they didn't run block well and there really are few players you can point to and say "they weren't at fault." I thought Staley had a good season and Daniel Kilgore was far and away the best offensive lineman before he went down with an injury.
But the guy we're going to talk about today is somewhat divisive, at least from where I'm sitting. He held out for a better contract and joined the team out of shape and it really showed on the field. I'm talking, of course, about Alex Boone.
Where do we start with Boone? He was slow, ineffective and routinely missed his assignments (or at least, it looked an awful lot like he was missing assignments) for the entire first half of the season. I gave him one positive grade over the first nine weeks of the season. He was bad in the passing game and he was sub-par in the running game.
Keep in mind, I thought Boone was absolutely one of the best guards in the NFL the season prior and absolutely agreed that he was underpaid for what he brought to the table. I would go as far as to say he was the best right guard in the league for a stretch that year. But he was anything but last season, especially in the first half.
He DID get better in the second half. I thought Boone had some dominant performances, such as the one against the Oakland Raiders in Week 14. He definitely had some good games pass-blocking, but I also think people gave him a little too much credit for the Washington game and the New York Giants game. I remember Pro Football Focus named him one of their stars for one of those games -- I don't remember which -- and I almost spit my drink all over my monitor when I read that.
Of course, their grades don't seem to place heavy weight on sacks allowed or apparent missed assignments -- which is not necessarily a bad thing. I did agree with most of their other grades though, and thought he closed out the season with three strong performances.
In other words ... I don't think there's much to worry about with Boone at the moment. I think there was a tangible reason he stunk up the place in the first half of the season and I think there's no reason to assume that will happen again this year. That position is set, though it's worth noting that Boone is on an expiring contract and is probably going to demand a whole lot of money on the open market, especially if he has a good year and doubly so if a team wants to sign him away as a tackle.
Why he might improve:
There's a lot of room for improvement when you consider Boone's season as a whole. Obviously, he can improve on the early-goings of the season, and he can do that by not doing whatever he did to prepare for last season this time around. I'm not worried that he and Davis are working out elsewhere as opposed to participating in San Francisco's offseason program, but I hope whatever he did last time isn't what he's currently going through. He's not yet at an age of decline and has plenty of room for growth.
Why he might regress:
The 49ers have a new offense, and obviously, not everyone will take to that offense as effectively as hoped. I think Boone's style still fits with what the 49ers will put on the field next season, of course, but it's just one factor. Maybe Boone's struggles last season are more an indication of him simply not being as good as we thought. Whatever the case, I don't actually expect him to regress, barring injury.
Odds of making the roster:
Boone is on the roster 100 percent. Going forward, that might be a different story if the team looks to replace him rather than pay him big time. But for 2015-16, Boone is the guy and barring aliens, nothing will get in the way of that.