Alex Boone has never been described as a finesse player.
The former standout at Ohio State, who went into San Francisco 49ers training camp as the leading candidate to start at right guard, has pretty much locked up the job by taking a physical approach to his new challenge.
As an offensive tackle, the 6-foot-8, 300-pound Boone was always conscious of his technique and positioning. In pass protection against a defensive end, it was often a one-on-one battle in space at the end of the line. Now at guard, Boone finds himself in the middle of the scrum with center Jonathan Goodwin to his left and tackle Anthony Davis to his right, where he says every play is “like a brawl.”
Boone, just 25 and entering his third season in the NFL, says he and Davis have the same frame of mind on the right side of the line. They want to dominate their opponents.
“We are not out there to be your friend,” Boone told Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “We are out there to pound you and beat you up.”
Though Boone still has his rough spots – he was beaten several times on plays against the Houston Texans Saturday night (his errors were broken down on film in detail by one website) – for the most part his all-out approach to his new position has clinched the job. Boone, who was asked to switch from his job as the “swing tackle” to fill the vacancy left when Adam Snyder departed for Arizona as a free agent, was thought to be in competition with young Daniel Kilgore and free-agent veteran Leonard Davis, signed this summer. But Boone has made the most of his opportunity. With two games to go in the exhibition season, he’s the de facto starter.
In fact, he’s been picking the minds of both Davises, Leonard and Anthony, for advice, and also taking input from the defenders he blocks in practice, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. This past offseason, too, he studied film of some of the best in the business and has embraced what they've done.
Boone told reporters one player he studied was six-time Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters, now with New England.
Waters, said Boone, not only has strength and the ability to brawl, but techniques and moves he’s tried to learn from.
“I like watching old-school guys who really kind of reinvented football and changed it up,” Boone said. “They didn’t do the classic one step and just go at it. They kind of used their craftiness against a guy. It is harder to do at my age because I am so young. I just want to be physical, but when you get to that age (35) you can be crafty and smart about things.”
Though Boone is much taller than most guards – he’s constantly telling himself to get low -- he’s trying to use that height to his advantage.
“Defensive tackles are really not used to a long-armed guy,” Boone told Lynch. “So in pass (protection) I get my arms on them right now. … Not just throwing the same old stubby arms out there.”
Having to block Smith and McDonald every day in practice also reinforces the mantra that he has to go low. If he doesn’t “sink” and get proper leverage, he’ll get bowled over. When he watches film of himself, he wants to see his body “staying coiled, staying tight to myself.”
“If I don’t get low enough it could be trouble,” Boone told Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “If I play a guy like Justin Smith or Ray McDonald and they try to bull rush me and I don’t get low, it’s going to be a long day.”