The San Francisco 49ers Must Improve Their Play at the Line


Over the past two games, San Francisco 49ers‘ quarterback Colin Kaepernick put himself in line for an offseason departure. But what shouldn’t be ignored is the lack of effort from both sides of the line, which is something the 49ers need to improve.

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It is easy to place the blame on Kaepernick for the 1-4 start to the 2015 season. Sunday night, however, proved Kaepernick is still a hard worker and fighter. As for Tomsula’s defense and offensive line, they are not receiving as much blame as they should.

In the game earlier this season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger‘s jersey stayed cleaner than a load of laundry, as the 49ers’ defense failed to even lay one hand on the quarterback. There was no sacks or quarterback pressures by the new Eric Mangini defense. It makes one miss the Vic Fangio defense.

The Steelers, in return, delivered and sacked Kaepernick five times. The offensive line has given up 16 sacks through the first five games, the third-worst total in the league. Only Russell Wilson and former 49ers’ quarterback Alex Smith, have had to run for their lives more.

So which side is responsible more for the 1-4 start?

After a mass exodus of players this offseason and the addition of a whole new coaching staff, there was for sure going to be some growing pains, but it doesn’t seem that Tomsula was expecting it to be this bad. With no Mike Iupati or Anthony Davis on the offensive line anymore, a frequent circulation of bodies has left Kaepernick on his toes. Erik Pears and Andrew Tiller stepped up against the New York Giants on Sunday night though, which was an encouraging sign.

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As Kap works on staying in the pocket, the holes in the line are not helping the development. As a result, more criticism is on the quarterback. Why doesn’t the offensive line coach or coordinator get the heat for not motivating their players to protect?

The same goes for the defensive line.

When Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, Ray McDonald, and “The Cowboy” Justin Smith departed for all different reasons, a lot of young and unproven players have been forced into bigger roles. Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial, and Tank Carradine have been non-existent so far this season. Even Ian Williams, one of the captains, has not come up clutch. If the line can’t get pressure on the quarterback, then they are not helping out the secondary. And that is evident after a poor performance, allowing Eli Manning to throw over 400 yards on Sunday night.

Oct 11, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;

New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell (84) catches the game winning touchdown in front of San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Granted, Kenneth Acker is in his first full season and Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox are no longer with the team, leaving the secondary very young. With no pressure created by the line, the secondary has had to be all over the field and can’t capitalize on bad throws. With only nine sacks as a team and one forced fumble, there is no production.

Aaron Lynch, NaVorro Bowman, and Tramaine Brock have been the only stand outs and consistent players. The rest of the defense has been questionable. It can be blamed on the inexperience at the line and the secondary not stopping the pass, but this one is on the coaches as well. Failed blitz packages and a lot of zone defense is not built for this team.

For the 49ers to take the next step, if they want Kaepernick as the future and if the defense wants to see progress from the Harbaugh era defenses, they need to rebuild the defensive line and the offensive line.

In 2015, Trent Baalke and company seem to slowly rebuild with the addition of young Oregon Duck standout, Arik Armstead. In 2014, Brandon Thomas was drafted to boost the offensive line, but he still waits patiently to return to form that had him projected as a first-rounder before tearing his ACL in the 2014 NFL Draft Combine.

Sitting at 1-4 with a tough division and schedule, the 49ers may want to consider looking to trade a few players to acquire additional picks for this upcoming draft.

With an upset fan base and Jim Harbaugh thriving at Michigan right now, the veracity of the fans seems to be at an all-time high and the pressure is on the front office and 49ers’ coaching staff to present results.

Want to take some steam off of Kaepernick and the secondary? Build the line and win at the trenches.

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