When the name “Alex” is mentioned in relation to the San Francisco 49ers, along with the notion of pressure, one immediately infers that Alex Smith is the topic of conversation.
The other—perhaps more pertinent—Alex on the Niners squad who often goes unnoticed is offensive lineman Alex Boone.
The former Ohio State Buckeye has been penciled in to replace the departed Adam Snyder as the new starting right guard.
Boone has served as a backup and swing tackle since being picked up as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He possesses the prototypical measurables for an NFL tackle at 6’8’’ and 300-plus pounds.
Higher-ups on the 49ers’ coaching staff, however, evidently feel he is suited to move inside. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports that Boone is, far and away, the leading candidate for the position heading into training camp. That means he's ahead of Daniel Kilgore and fourth-round pick Joe Looney (the former will presumably serve primarily as the backup center).
There isn’t any denying that Boone is an absolute beast capable of mauling defenders in the run game. But how will he perform in pass protection on the right side of the line? That question is where the pressure and expectations come from.
It's no secret that pass protection was a major area of deficiency for the 49ers in 2011. They surrendered 44 sacks in the regular season and an additional seven in the playoffs. These are not good numbers.
Snyder was the man formerly in charge of right guard duties after replacing Chilo Rachal early in the season. Even though he was a great team guy and displayed noteworthy versatility, he ranked as one of the worst starting RGs in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Did the 49ers make the right choice in making Boone the starting RG?
Boone not only has the daunting task of starting at this position for the first time in his career; he's also expected to play it extremely well.
He must develop chemistry with fellow linemen LT Joe Staley, LG Mike Iupati, C Jonathan Goodwin and RT Anthony Davis—the latter two being the most pivotal since they line up on either side of Boone.
This involves effective communication in both carrying out plays and diagnosing opposing defensive formations. It also entails the obvious physical movements associated with these responsibilities.
The 49ers now feature a completely revamped roster on the offensive side of the ball. Jim Harbaugh will still implement a run-first system, but with all of the new firepower at wide receiver, passing formations will also be a major component. Boone must be fluent in both schemes.
Increasing the pressure on Mr. Boone is San Francisco's status as a Super Bowl-contending team. Expectations are astronomically higher in 2012 because the 49ers will no longer be considered surprising underdogs after going 13-3 last season.
Serving as the backup to both tackle positions, in addition to his starting role, only intensifies Boone’s responsibilities.
My feelings are that Boone is the right man for the job due to all of the confidence displayed by the coaching staff in so swiftly nominating him for the position.
They did not sign any veterans (Jake Scott in particular is still available) and didn’t select an offensive lineman until the fourth round of the NFL draft.
Pressure, responsibility, expectations—faithful of the Red and Gold can only hope that Boone and this 49ers team are up to the task.
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