San Francisco 49ers: Alex Boone Aces First Test at Right Guard

Brandon BurnettContributor IIISeptember 12, 2012

Alex Boone against the Arizona Cardinals, per the 49ers official team website.
Alex Boone against the Arizona Cardinals, per the 49ers official team website.

Alex Boone may not be a rookie, but the 49ers 30-22 win over the Packers on Sunday was the former offensive tackle's first ever start at guard.

And he absolutely aced it. 

Head coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers front office set out this offseason to find a solution for the offensive line's one remaining weak link—right guard. Chilo Rachal (now with Chicago) filled the role respectably in 2009 and 2010, but struggled mightily in offensive coordinator Greg Roman's offense early last season.

Versatile utility lineman Adam Snyder, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals this summer, replaced Rachal in Week 3 but arguably performed just as badly.

San Francisco's dismantling of Green Bay was only the first 60 minutes of a long season, of course, but it appears the 49ers brass did right (once again) by giving Boone the first shot in training camp. 

Boone played all 67 of the 49ers offensive snaps on Sunday and was nearly perfect in all of them. There were a few plays where he went whistle to whistle without engaging a defender, but that's going to happen on occasion. 

He did let one man slip by in pass protection, but it was linebacker D.J. Smith who came on a play in which Packers' defensive coordinator Dom Capers overloaded a blitz on the right side of the Niners' offensive line.

Other than that, he was perfect. Couldn't ask for anything more. There were (and may still be) concerns that the 6'8", 312-pound monster may struggle to gain proper leverage on the interior, but I saw just one play where he struggled in this aspect, and he still didn't allow the defender (rookie Jerel Worthy) into the backfield.

In fact, Pro Football Focus graded him out as the top player in Red and Gold for the entire game, outside of All-Pro kicker David Akers, who amazed us all with an absolutely sick record-tying 63-yard field goal that bounced off the upright and over—likely to add to the mystique of the kick (though his expression tells a different story).

In this PFF article, Steve Palazzolo highlights Boone's exceptional play, noting that the big guy was able to pull around the edge and spring RB Frank Gore for multiple big runs, and that he was perfect in pass protection all day.

It seemed as though Davis, the man to Boone's right the entire game, was a clear beneficiary of Boone's strong play. The third-year pro has always been solid in terms of run blocking, but it appeared as though Boone's presence, combined with an offseason of hard work, paid dividends for Davis' overall game. 

Davis allowed minimal pressure on QB Alex Smith throughout the contest, and the only sack given up from his side of the line (made by CB Charles Woodson) was due to a miscue by fullback Bruce Miller. 

Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley gave us an uncharacteristically disappointing performance on Sunday, but once he gets it together, this unit is going to be flat-out dangerous. 

Left guard Mike Iupati is performing at an All-Pro level, obliterating defenders in the run game, and veteran center Jonathan Goodwin held his own just fine on Sunday. 

Personally, I wasn't particularly concerned with Boone being able to find success in the interior of the line; it's the perfect place for a chippy player like him. 

Boone referred to the action inside as a "full-day street fight", just the way he likes it. 

Plus, this coaching staff has proven time and time again they can successfully convert players to unfamiliar positions. 

What did raise a potential red flag, however, was the void in depth the 49ers now have at the tackle position. The coaching staff decided to go with just two tackles on the 53-man roster, meaning Boone would likely have to slide back to his natural position in the event of an injury to Staley or Davis. 

That said, Boone has handled the transition like a grizzled vet. He committed zero penalties in Week 1, and arguably outplayed each of his linemates. 

Boone faces a tough task at home in Week 2, considering the incoming Detroit Lions own one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL

But if he aces his next test like he did the first, Boone will have successfully erased any doubts of his ability to fill the void at right guard. 

Considering that—outside of the wide receiver corps—right guard was the only position of concern carrying over from 2011, Boone's Week 1 effort is just one more reason to believe this 49ers squad can achieve their most important goal this season—and for seasons to come.

Claiming the Lombardi Trophy, of course.


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