We continue to examine the 49ers’ most intriguing training-camp battles today with a look at what has been one of the most stable spots in recent years, the offensive line.
Here's what is working against Alex Boone as his spring, it's-not-serious-yet holdout turns into a summer, ok-now-it's-serious holdout: The 49ers can insert at least four players at his starting right guard spot while he is away. Which is to say: They have options.
Seldom-used Joe Looney got the lion's share of the repetitions there in the spring. Looney, who is one of two players left over from the team’s weak 2012 draft class, filled in at right guard in a game against the Rams last season and got kudos from everyone including, notably Boone, for his performance. "I thought Joe Looney did a great job stepping up today - hell of a performance coming off the bench and kicking some a---," Boone said after the win against the Rams. "Can't be more proud of a guy for that. I know he's going to be ready for (next) week."
Still, Looney is not a lock. Because they play both tackle and guard, Jonathan Martin and Adam Snyder give the 49ers more versatility and they have vastly more in-game experience than Looney. Marcus Martin, meanwhile, is a shoe-in to make the 53-man roster after the 49ers used an early third-round pick on him in May. If the spring sessions are an indication, however, Marcus Martin's practice snaps mostly will come at center, where he will start out behind Daniel Kilgore, and he will be sprinkled in at guard. The rookie also was placed on the non-football injury list last week with an unknown ailment that is not considered serious.
This training-camp battle might get top billing if it weren't for the fact that the "battle" essentially evaporates as soon as Boone comes in from the cold. He is a better guard than all of the players discussed above (and a better tackle). What's more, the 49ers already have replaced one player on the offensive line, center Jonathan Goodwin, this offseason after two straight years with the same group. They don't want to have to replace two in a season in which they are expected to contend for a Super Bowl title.
Here’s what I wrote last week about Boone and why he feels the 49ers have taken advantage of him.