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 2012 NFL Draft has been pretty much a disaster for the San Francisco 49ers. The team parted ways with their top two picks, trading A.J. Jenkins during 2013 training camp, and then releasing a disgruntled LaMichael James last year. Joe Looney is the lone remaining pick of that group. He was coming off a Lisfranc when the 49ers selected him in the fourth round. He made the 53-man roster out of training camp, but was inactive throughout his rookie season.
Looney was active for four games in his second season, from Weeks 12 through 15. He received significant playing time at right guard in Week 13, and looked fairly solid in pass protection. Mike Iupati was inactive that week, which meant reserve Adam Snyder was starting at left guard. Alex Boone started at right guard, but Joe Staley suffered an injury. Boone swung out to left tackle, and Looney replaced him at right guard.
This past season, Looney was active 15 of 16 games, and got four starts. He played right guard in Week 1 as Alex Boone was a reserve that first week. Looney played left guard in Week 7 in place of Mike Iupati. He closed out the season playing center in Week 15 in place of Marcus Martin, and right guard in Week 17 in place of an injured Alex Boone.
Why he might improve:
He received more playing time in 2014 than he had the previous season. He showed some solid signs, and the departure of Anthony Davis opens the door for more opportunities depending on who swaps where. He had some upside coming out of college, but his foot injury cost him. Anthony Davis's retirement could very well result in Alex Boone moving to right tackle. We'll find out more at mandatory minicamp, and then training camp. If that happens, both guard positions are then up for grabs. Maybe consistent playing time is what he needs.
Why he might regress:
Looney showed that he is a capable replacement option, but he has yet to show he is a guy we want to see starting on a regular basis. I mentioned a potential need for consistent playing time, but that would require some measure of faith from the new coaching staff. The 49ers have a new offensive line coach, so who really knows what he will bring to the table for established veterans. I can't say for certain at this point if we have seen Joe Looney's ceiling. He was behind both Mike Iupati and Alex Boone the last couple years. It would have been unlikely he would burst past either of them, but the team was obviously fine with him as a rotational option last year.
Odds of making the roster:
He brings versatility, having played all three interior line positions at some point in the last year. Marcus Martin and Daniel Kilgore seem locked in as the first and second string center, in some form or fashion. Brandon Thomas is the guy I think most want to see take over one guard position.
That leaves the other guard position. Alex Boone could stay there if Trenton Brown or Erik Pears is viewed as a sufficient option at right tackle. If Boone moves to right tackle, right guard is wide open. Could Looney finally get a huge break? Brown has impressed at right tackle in OTAs, although they are just OTAs. However, he has also been viewed as potentially better suited at guard. It could be a Pears vs. Brown vs. Looney competition there.