The defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers will open training camp at the end of the month. But before the pads come on and the competition for 53 coveted roster spots begin, 49ers.com will preview the storylines to track for each position group on the team. San Francisco's respected group of offensive linemen comes into focus next in our "49ers Camp Preview" series. OVERVIEW
The 49ers were one of three teams last season to have the same starting five offensive linemen in every game. It allowed San Francisco to form a cohesive group of maulers and produce the league's No. 4 rushing attack in the regular season. The 49ers had all five members of the offensive line selected to the Pro Bowl either as a participant or as an alternate.
Left tackle Joe Staley continued his strong play as the team's blindside protector, earning his second consecutive Pro Bowl invitation. The second-team All-Pro selection remained a leader among the group in the offseason despite being temporarily sidelined by a minor knee procedure that should not hamper his performance in training camp.
PHOTOS - 49ERS CAMP PREVIEW: OFFENSIVE LINE ]
Staley and guard Mike Iupati formed a solid left side of the offensive line. Top to bottom, the offensive line group boasts talented players. Center Jonathan Goodwin, right guard Alex Boone and right tackle Anthony Davis are all considered among the best at their positions in the NFL.
Davis was also selected by his teammates as the 2012 Bobb McKittrick Award winner, given to the 49ers lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice of the longtime 49ers offensive coach. The young right tackle was also rewarded with a five-year contract extension that will keep him in San Francisco through the 2019 season.
Behind the relentless blocking of the offensive line, the 49ers finished second in the NFL with 81 runs of 10-or-more yards. The team also picked up 17 runs of 20-or-more yards, ranking tied for second in the league. Because of the consistent performances of San Francisco's offensive line in 2012, Hall of Fame coach John Madden named the unit as his "Most Valuable Protectors."
With continuity and more "time on task" as offensive coordinator Greg Roman often says, the group should continue to thrive in the coming season. Training camp represents the first opportunity for the linemen to work on blocking fundamentals while wearing pads. The padded practices will also allow young players on the roster to state their cases for increased roles in 2013. DEPTH
RETURNERS: Joe Staley (seventh season), Mike Iupati (fourth season), Jonathan Goodwin (12th season), Alex Boone (fourth season), Anthony Davis (fourth season), Daniel Kilgore (third season), Joe Looney (second season), Al Netter (2012 practice squad), and Kenny Wiggins (2012 practice squad). NEWCOMERS: Adam Snyder, (ninth season, free agent) Carter Bykowski (seventh-round pick, Iowa State), Wayne Tribue (first season), Luke Marquardt (undrafted, Azusa Pacific), Patrick Omameh, (undrafted, Michigan) and Sherman Carter (undrafted, Tennessee State).
On paper, the 49ers have a solid group of starters on the offensive line. However, young players on the roster are quietly pushing to earn more playing time in 2013. The team uses multiple linemen in jumbo formations which has created a significant gameday role for interior linemen like Kilgore, a third-year pro. Kilgore and second-year lineman Joe Looney will be in line to compete for such jobs on the offensive line, plus push Goodwin for the chance to play center. Both linemen have spoken up about wanting a bigger role in 2013 and that begins with impressive showings in training camp and in the preseason. The 49ers also brought back veteran lineman Adam Snyder to be a jack-of-all-trades on the line. Snyder has game experience at every position on the offensive line and will be a positive mentor to young players like Wiggins, Netter, Bykowski and others looking to be versatile reserves.* *
Under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers are 22-3-1 when out-rushing the opponent.* *
"Anthony is a very hardworking, dedicated and talented young player who has earned the respect of our entire organization. Having already made significant strides early in his career, Anthony is just beginning to realize his full potential. We look forward to watching him achieve even greater results in the years to come."
-General Manager Trent Baalke after inking Davis to a five-year contract extension through the 2019 season.