49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 26, 2008
Final 53: Player-by-player look at the O-line

#59. Cody Wallace. The team's fourth-round pick hasn't won many one-on-one blocking battles in practice, and early on he was being rag-dolled in just about every match-up. And that's what's so puzzling about Wallace's selection. He doesn't fit the mold of the big, 300-plus-pound mauler that Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan have been accumulating since they arrived on scene. Still, Wallace has improved over the last month, and his technique is solid. Coaches like him because he's a quick learner. He just needs to get stronger.
Final 53: Yes

#60. Brian de la Puente. He's been one of the most pleasant surprises of camp. Like Wallace, he's not a very big guy, but he held his own in one-on-one drills all summer where he mostly went against LaJuan Ramsey and Walter Curry, who is one of the more powerful players on the team. Coaches trusted de la Puente enough to allow him to start Thursday's game in Chicago and it looks like he'll do the same Friday against the Chargers. A spot on the final roster might be a bit too ambitious, but the practice squad seems likely.
Final 53: No.

#61. Joe Toledo. Training camp has been a roaring sucecss for Toledo for the mere fact that he made it through without injury. Toldeo suffered a knee injury when he was a rookie two years ago. He spent 2006 on injured reserve and 2007 on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Toledo has looked good at times, bad at other times. He's not terribly mobile. He won't make the final roster, and the question is whether the 6-5, 330-pounder who showed potential in college can develop on the practice squad.
Final 53: No.

#62. Chilo Rachal. I'm probably going to write the same exact sentence later in the week in regard to Kentwan Balmer: He's got potential, but he needs refinement. And that's why the 49ers used a second-round pick on Rachal. They believe he has the potential to be excellent, and that's not something you say about most second-rounders. For this year, however, Rachal will remain on the bench, at least early on. I figure the top three guards will be David Baas, Adam Snyder and Tony Wragge in some order. Rachal will be No. 4, which means he likely won't suit up on game days.
Final 53: Yes.

#63 Damane Duckett. The 49ers love to recast players at different positions. Duckett, of course, was a defensive lineman until the 49ers switched him to the opposite side of the ball last year. He made excellent progress, and the 49ers had great hopes that the tall and long-limbed Duckett would make a successful switch. Those hopes, however, may have dimmed a bit this offseason. Duckett's progress seemed to plateau, and he struggled mightily in that Aug. 4 "practimmage" against the Raiders. A knee injury landed him on injured reserve.
Final 53: No.

#64. David Baas. For the first time in his career, Baas saw significant playing time when Justin Smiley injured his shoulder last season. Baas' insertion into the starting lineup coincided with a late-season resurgence for the starting line. The 49ers naturally had high hopes for him ... and then he tore his pectoral muscle. Baas is looking at it as a blessing in disguise. He worked tirelessly to rehabilitate from the injury, and he says his body may be in better shape -- stamina, flexibility, etc. -- than it's ever been. Baas is back a couple of weeks earlier than his projected return date. The question is whether his power, which is his forte, will return in time for the regular season.
Final 53: Yes

#65. Barry Sims. Sims was an essential addition this offseason, considering how much pressure Mike Martz's offense puts on offensive tackles. If they play well, the offense operates like the 1999 Rams. If they don't, the offense surrenders 63 sacks (see: Lions, Detroit). Sims is integral, of course, considering Jonas Jennings' injury history. And he's already been called upon after Jennings broke a knuckle on his right hand Aug. 16. Sims started at right tackle and played well the next week against the Bears. He'll get his second start Friday against San Diego. Make no mistake: Jennings is the more talented tackle. But with Sims, the 49ers don't have to reshuffle the rest of their line or readjust their offense should Jennings go down in the regular season.
Final 53: Yes.

#66. Eric Heitmann. A year ago at this time, Heitmann had made a Herculean effort to return to the field following a broken leg late in the 2006 season. Largely because of that effort, he won the team's Bobb McKittrick award (voted on by the offensive line) as well as the Ed Block Courage award. Heitmann, however, wasn't himself early in the season, and he and the rest of the interior of the offensive line struggled mightily. (Search: Smith, Alex + Bernard, Rocky). Heitmann's play improved by the end of the season, and so far this summer he and Jennings have been the most impressive linemen. It's a good time to be playing well; Heitmann is in the final year of his contract. Last year, only one starting center was paid less. Heitmann should be rewarded. The question is whether the 49ers or one of the 31 other teams in the league will do the rewarding.
Final 53: Yes

#67. Alan Reuber. With Jennings out, Reuber has been the backup right tackle, and actually had a couple of plays with the first-team unit when Sims had an equipment malfunction Thursday. Still, it's hard to see Reuber as anything but a camp body.
Final 53: No.

#68 Adam Snyder. The most dubious surprise of training camp might be Snyder. Since being drafted in the third round in 2005, Snyder's been the most versatile and dependable offensive lineman, playing games at every position save center. The expectation was that once he settled in at one spot -- left guard -- he would excel. He still might. But Snyder struggled early in training camp, especially when pitted against Justin Smith. Snyder would hold his own every now and then. But he also was thrown to the ground too many times. Now Snyder's out with a high-ankle sprain, and there's been talk of moving Tony Wragge from right to left guard for the season opener.
Final 53: Yes.

#69 Tony Wragge. Tony Wragge is a like a gray sweatshirt. Sure, there are fancier things in your closet, but old gray is the first thing you reach for when it gets cold. Wragge has been solid while filling in for Baas at right guard. So solid, in fact, that there's a chance Wragge will be the starting left guard on opening day.
Final 53: Yes

#74 Joe Staley. Staley missed the first week of training camp with a foot infection, and then looked shaky in the opener against the Raiders. He's settled down in recent weeks, however, and is expected to be the team's left tackle for the next decade or so. Indeed, Staley was one of the players Martz initially cited when he was hired.
Final 53: Yes.

#75 Jonas Jennings. Ok, let's get this out of the way. Jennings is injured. Again. He has a hard cast on his right hand after it was stepped on against Green Bay resulting in a broken knuckle. He missed the Chicago game, and he'll miss the game against San Diego. But the injury seems more serious than what initially was reported. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jennings had three screws inserted into the hand. Because of his injury history, it's notable whenever Jennings misses a game. However, he made the switch from left tackle to right tackle with aplomb, has been the team's best linemen this offseason and really doesn't need to play these final two games.
Final 53: Yes

#76 Ramiro Pruneda. Given his international status, Pruneda is the only player on the team guaranteed a spot on the roster, albeit the practice squad roster. And the big-bodied guard isn't just taking up space. He's got some skills and will be a nice addition to the practice squad. The question is whether his presence means the 49ers will be less inclined to keep another offense livemen they otherwise would have liked to develop.
Final 53: No

#77 Chris Patrick. Patrick was signed when Duckett was placed on injured reserve. A former guard, he's been playing backup left tackle since joining the 49ers. That he's done so on the fly is impressive. Practice squad is a slight possibility.
Final 53: No.

Next: Linebackers


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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