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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

With Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings, San Francisco 49ers O-Line Taking On An New Shape

My question is will the 49ers new scheme give Alex Smith a timed window to throw in, or will it cause him to throw without crisp, set footwork and receiver timing. In Oakland, Norv Turner didn't install the kind of precise option-route offense one would like to see in today's game. Was that him, or Al Davis? I'm less concerned with the size of the line than with the team's offensive design. We shall see.



"In 2005, Mike Nolan tried to establish the San Francisco 49ers as a power running team. He lured massive tackle Jonas Jennings from Buffalo with a lucrative free agent contract and drafted two punishing offensive linemen in the first three rounds (David Baas-2nd, Adam Snyder-3rd).

However, Nolan's plan went off the rails early in the season when Jennings suffered a season-ending labrum injury and Jeremy Newberry's battered knees kept him out of most games and every practice. Reluctant to throw his freshly drafted rookies into the fire so soon, Nolan brought in veteran tackle Anthony Clement on the left side with disastrous results. Only when Snyder moved into the left tackle spot and Newberry withdrew himself from the rotation did the Niners have consistent success in the running game.

This year will be a different story. The left side is pretty much locked down with the return of Jennings and the addition of Larry Allen but competitions remain open at the other three spots.

At C, Newberry may never be healthy enough to practice again and Nolan has already stated that if he cannot practice, he will not play. That leaves the starting job to Eric Heitmann, who finished the season there last year and has been handling the duties this offseason.

At RG, Justin Smiley is the incumbent, but Baas will challenge hard for that spot in training camp. While Smiley is more of an athletic, technical guard, Baas is a punishing, powerful mauler who may be a better fit for the nasty attitude Nolan is trying to instill in the trenches.

And at RT, Adam Snyder is poised to unseat former first-rounder Kwame Harris. During his three seasons in the league, Harris has not distinguished himself, performing adequately in the running game but missing tons of assignments in pass protection.

However it plays out, the position battles in this year's camp will give the San Francisco 49ers a lot more depth along the line this season should the injury bug strike again."


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