Shortly after Chip Kelly was hired to be the 49ers’ new head coach, he told the media what he looks for in the perfect offensive linemen for his spread offense.
No. 1, he said, is big, strong, long-armed blockers. If you don’t have size up front, “You’ll find yourself getting run over because you’re too small,” he said.
Kelly also believes his linemen need to be athletic. In Kelly’s fast-paced offense, the center, guards and tackles need to be able to play quickly, have endurance and move well in space. Size is important, but so is athletic ability.
“Joe (Staley) is prototypical in what you want,” said Kelly of the 49ers’ Pro Bowl left tackle. “He’s got that athleticsm. You’ve also got to bend and be physical, but I think it takes an athletic offensive line. You’re looking for that combination. There’s not one that outweighs the other.”
Now, as the 49ers are in the midst of their offseason program, Staley, a 6-foot-6, 306-pound five-time Pro Bowler, says he feels right at home in Kelly’s offense.
Staley, a high school track standout and former tight end who converted to tackle at Central Michigan, says the spread scheme is much like the one he knew in college.
“I always personally really enjoyed playing in it,” he told reporters recently. “(It) kind of fit my skill set pretty well. ... We have a lot of young guys, guys that aren’t really set in one kind of scheme or any other, so we’ll be able to adapt to whatever we kind of decide to do as far as the personnel goes. … ”
Staley says he has watched film of Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles to get an idea what he’ll be called on to do.
“Well, tackles are off in space a lot more, lot more pulling, a lot more using some sort of big-guy athleticsm,” he said. “More so than other systems just from what I’ve seen so far. You know they had a good one over in Philly for a bunch of years with Jason Peters. You look at the kind of guys that came out of Oregon when (Kelly) was there, pretty similar as far as body type goes. So I think that’s kind of what he means … getting out in space, being able to move and pull and all that.”
Former head coach Jim Tomsula, who was on the 49ers’ staff for many years, always spoke highly of Staley’s abilities and also his attitude and work ethic, two factors that likely will allow to Staley to thrive again.
Said Tomsula last season: “(Staley’s) going to be prepared, week in and week out, day in and day out. Joe’s going to show up and get to work and grind.”