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Left Guard Mike Iupati Has Been The Lone Bright Spot On The Line
Following the 2009 season, the San Francisco 49ers felt they needed to bolster their offensive line. They drafted Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in the first round. Head coach Mike Singletary inserted these two into the starting lineup early in the preseason, Davis at right tackle and Iupati at left guard.
In addition to these two newcomers, the 49ers were forced to move David Baas into the center position when starting center Eric Heitmann went down with an injury in the preseason. The center makes all of the offensive line calls and blitz pickup adjustments at the line of scrimmage and the fact that Bass had never played center was also a concern.
With only two returning starters, left tackle Joe Staley and right guard Chilo Rachal, one could expect some growing pains as the offensive linemen became more familiar with each other. However, the 49ers expected the line to have jelled and be a more cohesive unit by this point in the season.
The offensive line has played far below expectations. In order for an offense to be productive on a consistent basis, good offensive line play is essential. Simply put, this has not happened.
Anthony Davis has played very inconsistently at the right tackle spot. He has been flagged for numerous penalties and also has had pass rushers fly by him en route to the quarterback. Davis was thrown into the fire too early and needs more seasoning.
I have stated numerous times that the 49ers should spell Davis every second or third series, so he can get direct input and coaching from line coaches Jim Tomsulo and Ray Brown.
The other rookie, Mike Iupati, has been a pleasant surprise. He is a powerful run blocker and has been decent in pass protection.
David Baas has filled in adequately at the center spot, but holdovers Joe Staley and Chilo Rachal have not played up to expectations. Staley probably should be playing right tackle, but is on the all-important left, or blind side.
Staley is also out on an island because he is often left alone to block the opposing teams' best pass rusher on most occasions. This is because the Niners must use the extra blocker to help Anthony Davis.
Chilo Rachal has also been inconsistent and is being pressed by Adam Snyder at the right guard position. My personal belief is that the two should be rotating every series or two, because Rachal has shown an inability to successfully compete for an extended period of time, without making mistakes.
The 49er line has been okay as far as run blocking, but their pass protection has not measured up. The weak pass blocking has added ramifications, specifically with the efficiency of the quarterback play and the low production of the pass catchers.