Changes Coming to 49ers' Offensive Line

New line coach is incorporating zone-blocking scheme into playbook and demanding linemen to be in better condition

Under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers built a reputation as a power-running, power-blocking football team.

Behind a physical offensive line, the Niners were a bit of a throwback in the era of the pass-happy NFL, running Frank Gore and Co. behind a blocking unit that tried to overpower defenses at the point of attack.

But during organized team activities and the recent minicamp, the 49ers spent a lot of time getting the offense and linemen accustomed to some new wrinkles. According to  Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the 49ers are instituting some zone-blocking to mix in with some of the power-blocking plays still in the playbook.

Left offensive tackle Joe Staley told Barrows that the offensive line under new line coach Chris Foerster spent much of its time this spring working on zone-blocking plays.

But he said the team doesn’t want to get away from its successful physical approach of the past few seasons.

“We’re still going to do what we’ve done here,” Staley told Barrows. “What’s worked for us has been power running. It’s what we know. We’ll definitely implement all styles.”

As Paul Gutierrez of noted, the 49ers personnel “is more suited for the power-running game.”

But Foerster – who also coached the 49ers offensive line in 2008 and 2009 -- was a zone-blocking proponent at his previous stop with Washington and in his other previous stops.

With the addition of more zone blocking into the playbook, there are indications the 49ers are asking their offensive linemen to have a higher level of fitness coming into next month’s training camp. A zone system requires more movement and quickness than a power-blocking scheme. Plus, the 49ers want to play at a faster pace than in recent seasons – so the linemen will have to keep up.

As second-year lineman Marcus Martin told the San Francisco Chronicle this offseason, new head coach Jim Tomsula and Foerster have asked the linemen to lose a little weight and be more fit.

“Oh man, it’s a whole different mentality, a whole different level of fitness,” Martin told the Chronicle’s Eric Branch.

Martin, expected to compete at both center and guard, is making the effort to increase his stamina and quickness.

“You have a coach (Foerster) that emphasizes being in shape, being able to run and being physical at the same time,” Martin said. “And being able to replicate that every single time. You’ve got to be in shape or you won’t have a job.”

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