Positional Analysis Offensive Line- 02/02/2001
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The 49ers offensive line always seems to be the topic of skeptics. "There two small," people say, or "they have too many players out of position." However, when we look at last season's starting offensive line that consisted of Ray Brown, Dave Fiore, Jeremy Newberry, Derrick Deese and Scott Gragg we saw a line that helped the 49ers become a leading team in rushing. The line helped Jeff Garcia throw for more yards than any 49ers quarterback ever and a line that stayed relatively injury free for most of the season. This really shouldn't come as much of a surprise as the 49ers have had a thousand yard rusher for four seasons in a row now. Clearly, the guidance of the late Bobb McKittrick, and current offensive line coach Pat Morris were significant contributors in the making of a successful offensive line.

Heading into next season, the team still wants to become bigger on the offensive line. That could put veteran Derrick Deese's position with the team in jeopardy. Deese is a valuable asset to the 49ers; he can play every position along the offensive line. He is also constantly asked to shift position to allow other players to play at their best position. Losing Deese would be a hard hit on this organization, a harder one than the team probably realizes right now.

Ray Brown, the eldest of the group has been tendered a contract that would allow him to return for his sixteenth season. The 49ers are very confident in Brown, feeling that he is constantly overlooked for the Pro Bowl, but definitely has the ability to go to Hawaii. Brown is a solid player, and the 49ers would be making a good move in bring him back next season.

Scott Gragg was signed last season to a one-year deal. Gragg excelled this past season, and secured his end of the line. The 49ers would love have Gragg back, but being a free agent might make re-signing him a tough task. Dave Fiore's and Jeremy Newberry's positions along the line are for the time being safe. Both are under contract, and quite frankly, if the 49ers don't want to have too look for more than two offensive lineman this off-season.

Waiting in the wings are tackle Dan Decher, Phil Ostrowski, Matt Willig and Tyrone Hopson. Hopson may have the greatest upside of any of there backups. He has good size, and has been working on his technique since the 1999 draft. Phil Ostrowski has been with the team since 1998 but has seen very limited action in his time with the team. Dan Decher has done a good job as a fill in when needed but has to prove he is starting material. Matt Willig has proved to be very consistent since signing as a free agent last season. Whether the 49ers draft an offensive lineman will depend mostly on what happens with Derrick Deese and Ray Brown. If both leave, you can count on at least one pick going to the draft. If only one leaves, the team will have to decide if one of their younger backups can fill the void.

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