Where the 49ers Have Improved Part 3
May 4 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
In this third edition of where the 49ers have improved, I take a look at the changes along the offensive line.
It appears that by the start of the season the 49ers will have made two significant changes along the offensive line. Both of these changes are linked to the imminent release of veteran guard, Ray Brown.
Early this off-season the 49ers recognized the needed help on the offensive line. Last season’s line was good, but when it came to handling much larger defensive lines it simply wasn’t up to snuff. The 49ers thus went out and signed guard Ron Stone formerly of the New York Giants.
Stone, a Pro Bowl player, will move into the offensive line and play next to a former team mate of his, Scott Gragg. The two will hold down the right side of the line, while Dave Fiore moves from right guard to the left position vacated by Brown. Fiore has shown the ability to play all positions along the line, so the move should not be difficult for him.
Adding Stone to the mix at offensive line should be an immediate upgrade. While he may not be better than Ray Brown was in his prime, he certainly was better than the Ray Brown who last season seemed to tire it out at the end of the season. The 49ers have stacked up the right side of the line, while leaving the left side - Jeff Garcia’s blind side rather light. The team seems to be saying: “We’re going to run at you from the right, try and stop us”. It’s an interesting change to the team, but may allow it to better dictate the flow of the game.
Rookie Eric Heitmann should make a big difference on the depth chart. The team really likes what they have seen from him. Kyle Kosier should be an asset to team depth as well, but will have a hard time making the roster.
After starting last season with exact same offensive line as the season before, the 49ers felt they needed change. The changes they did make seem to be good ones, though they could benefit from adding some more size to the left of the line.