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49ers Take Interesting Strategy With OL
June 23 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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The 49ers seem to have a different strategy for their offensive line this year. After having a series of good years from the line, the team is mixing it up. Gone is veteran Ray Brown as the team welcomes Ron Stone. Out with the old and in with the new.

Typically the 49ers offensive line consists of versatile, small, and athletic offensive lineman. The teamís offense seems to function well with this type of line because it can adapt to a scrambling quarterback quite well. Of course, the 49ers have tried bulking up the line too, with stints from such players as the mammoth Kevin Gogan. This season though, the 49ers seem to have a different approach.

Rather than choosing between a big and small line, the 49ers are going to have both. The right side of the line, with Scott Gragg and Ron Stone will be big, and powerful, while the left side with Derek Deese and Dave Fiore will be smaller and athletic. Jeremy Newberry will hold down center, meshing the two sides.

I certainly think the 49ers are onto something with such a line up. It seems to make sense, that the team be able to run behind big lead blockers, and pass behind those who can protect a quarterback on the move. But what puzzles me is that the left side, Jeff Garciaís blind side, is the lighter quicker part of the line.

Last the season the vast majority of 49ers run plays were to the right side. Having big men on the right side, thus makes sense. The only thing is, a running back can usually run right or left equally, it really doesnít matter to them which whole they run through, as long as itís there. A running play designed to go right can easily be shifted to go left. Passing on the other hand is much different.

Last season when Jeff Garcia rolled out or scrambled, the majority of the time he also went to the right side. This makes sense, as to go left he would have to turn around, and be running to his weak side. Passing plays with roll outs are not nearly as easy to convert to the opposite side.

Iím thus puzzled as to why the 49ers didnít bulk up the left side of the line, and make the right side of the line more athletic. They could then allow for Garciaís rolling out, quite nicely, and they could change their dominant run side to the left in order to take advantage of the big lead blockers. This just seems to make more sense. The only reason I can figure that the 49ers set up the line as they did, was that it would involve the fewest shifts in position for the offensive lineman who may have had to learn to play on the opposite side.

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