The San Francisco 49ers first three days of training camp have brought positive reviews for the defense, but the biggest question at this point is probably the offensive line. The team lost two starters, and maneuvering of the group means only Joe Staley will play the position he played all last season. The first team line as it currently stands consists of (from left-to-right) Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin and Erik Pears.
The line has struggled in camp, with the right side getting beat fairly well by the defense. Joe Staley and Alex Boone have been solid by all accounts, but that leaves questions on two-thirds of the line. Boone chatted with the media on Tuesday, and was fairly optimistic about the group. He said there have been some issues of miscommunication, but the group is cleaning it up and improving.
He also raised an interesting point about the speed of the line. He talked about how speeding up the process of getting to the offensive line gives the group more time to figure things out at the line of scrimmage, and makes things a bit more instinctual, rather than over-thinking things. And he also dropped this line.
Faster tempo of offense means O-line has to be in better shape. Alex Boone: "You don’t see a bunch of fat guys walking around here anymore."— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) August 4, 2015
I don't think anybody would be surprised to hear Boone speak about the line in that manner. His comments are unlikely to improve the confidence for some fans in the line. I generally take much of what he says to the media with a grain of salt. But I think he did raise an important point about the group. This unit made huge changes this offseason, and has only been working together since April. We need to see improvement, but considering it has only been three days of training camp practice, is it worth taking a step back and waiting to see what the next couple weeks bring? That includes the first preseason game. They likely won't see much exotic blitzing in Week 1, and J.J. Watt probably won't play that much, but it will give us some real game action on which to judge them.
As I look at the line right now, I see one or more of the following issues in play:
1. The line stinks
2. The defense is that good
3. The line just needs time to gel a bit better
It might be just one of those three, it might be more than that. I understand why people would get in a huff over the camp reports, but as the team gets into pads, maybe we see improvement. Or maybe we see improvement when they are not facing the 49ers defense. I can't say anything for certain, but it is something to consider.