Niners’ Offensive Line Needs to Lead the Way

Blockers up front, so key to success since Harbaugh's arrival, haven't performed as they have in the past because of injuries, holdout

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On paper, the statistics don’t look so bad.

The 4-3 49ers, coming out of their bye week, rank 10th in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 125.1 and 11th in total yards per game in total offense at 357.4.

But this season doesn’t have the same feel of recent seasons.

In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Niners often pushed people around with their offensive line and took over games by running the ball.

The offensive line last season of Joe Staley at left tackle, Mike Iupati at left guard, Jonathan Goodwin at center, Alex Boone at right guard and Anthony Davis at right tackle was not only good, but durable.

This season, however, it’s been a different story.

Goodwin is gone, replaced by Kilgore. Now Kilgore is gone, likely to be replaced by rookie Marcus Martin this Sunday against the Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

Staley has been the steady presence he’s always been, but Iupati and Davis have missed multiple games between them with injuries, and Boone had a long holdout that set him back.

Now, heading into the Rams game, Staley, Iupati, Boone and Davis are back. As the final nine games of the season unfold, how they come together – along with Martin – may be one of the biggest keys to how San Francisco fares on its run to make the postseason for the fourth straight season under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

As Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group noted recently, the offense is in flux – flopping back and forth between running and passing personalities – possibly in large part because of problems along the offensive front.

Wrote Inman: “The line has lost its consistency.”

When healthy, players such as Davis, Boone and Iupati have been road graders in the running attack, opening holes even against the NFL’s best defenses. But this season, their in-and-out status in the lineup means they just haven’t yet gotten in sync.

With extra time to prepare following the loss to Denver on Oct. 19, it’s possible that the Niners offensive line can find its rhythm and start leading the charge.

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