I have been thinking a lot lately about our offensive and defensive lines. Last year it seemed like we had a lot of talent on our defensive line but the execution wasn’t there. This year we even have more talent. We have replaced Purcell at nose tackle with Earl Mitchell and DJ Jones, we hopefully have a healthy Arik Armstead, and we have added Solomon Thomas. That is some major changes. However, the biggest change we have made may be to our defensive scheme. I don’t just mean going from a 34 to a 43, I am talking about our defensive lineman going from two gap to mostly one gap responsibility. This should cater well to our tall, very long defensive lineman’s strengths and help everyone on the defense be able to execute better.
Someone correct me if I am wrong but, if a defensive lineman picks the wrong gap and ends up out of position to make the tackle and the linebacker that happens to be a career backup, lacks experience and is not all that great to begin with, is also out of position because he wasn’t instinctive enough to know that the defensive lineman was going to make a bad read and be completely out of position so, as a result, he is also covering the wrong gap which causes him to miss badly with his extremely feeble attempt at a diving arm tackle and since both the defensive lineman and the linebackers made poor reads the defensive back had no idea what they were going to do and is therefore also completely out of position which causes him to take a very poor angle as a result making the entire defense look inept, this might be an example of poor execution?
What happens when our linebackers are on the same page as our defensive lineman and know which gap to cover as a result so they can be in position for the running back to be funneled to them and thus make the play? Might that be a very good upgrade from what we saw last season?
Our offensive line seemed to have its own problems last season. We were trying to run a zone blocking scheme with two young players that mostly fit a power blocking scheme. They are large and not as athletic as you would expect a lineman to be in a zone blocking scheme. What I seemed to notice though was not so much their lack of athletic ability as their poor execution. It seemed to me that the offensive line looked out of sync and failed to work as a cohesive unit. I could be wrong, I am no expert at breaking down tape but that was what mostly stuck out to me.
One of the things I was impressed with in a report from the 49ers first mini camp was Shanahan stopping practice to correct a wide receivers route running. I don’t know how many times I have heard that Shanahan is very detailed in his approach and this is just one instance that confirms that. Last year, under Chip Kelly, the main focus was on speed and number of plays run during practice. Emphasis was not placed on corrections until later, well after the mistakes had been made. I really felt like that resulted in sloppy play on both sides of the ball. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of things I liked about Kelly, but that was not one of them. Nothing should get in the way of teaching proper execution and there is no better time than the present. I think we have a pretty mediocre offensive line but I think less mistakes and better execution just might be the key to at least a little more success than we had last year.
I wanted to also add a link to a three year old article I read recently on offensive lineman grades. Hopefully some people will find it as fascinating as I did.
Now onto the sizzling hot links.
Bills sign two former 49ers Matt Maiocco
Report: Colin Kaepernick wants to be a Seahawk Chris Biderman
Tom Rathman will get a 49ers Museum statue David Bonilla