San Francisco 49ers

49ers question: What’s the best battle of training camp?

The best battle in 49ers training camp? It will largely be determined by where versatile Alex Boone lines up next week.
The best battle in 49ers training camp? It will largely be determined by where versatile Alex Boone lines up next week. AP

@mrizvi66 what do you think is going to be the most important training camp battle?

There will be some good battles at cornerback and tight end (where there are eight players and perhaps three roster spots) and for backup spots at wide receiver, safety, inside linebacker and along a very deep defensive line. But the most important battle -- or battles -- will be along the offensive line.

When the spring session ended, left tackle Joe Staley was the only lineman in the same spot he was in at the end of the 2014 season. Alex Boone was next to him at left guard, Joe Looney was playing center, Marcus Martin was the right guard and Erik Pears was playing right tackle.

The 49ers coaches did quite a bit of mixing and matching during spring practices in an effort to find the right combinations. They're unlikely to do much more experimenting this summer because a line that is missing two long-time starters -- Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati -- will need time to congeal. That is, the group that takes the field for Aug. 1's initial training camp practice ought to provide a good idea of what the line will look like against the Vikings in Week 1.

I thought it was interesting that Looney, not Martin, lined up at center during the most recent practices. That may indicate that the 49ers believe Daniel Kilgore, who is expected back after last year's leg fracture, is the best bet at center and that Martin should be getting solid practice repetitions at right guard.

Right guard then would probably be the best training camp battle -- one that pits Martin against Brandon Thomas and perhaps others, including Looney and Andrew Tiller. The 49ers seem to be stressing mobility in an offense that will incorporate zone blocking concepts more than in previous seasons. Martin, who trimmed a noticeable amount of fat from his frame during the offseason, seems to fit that mold.

Of course, the 49ers could conclude that Boone is better off at his more familiar spot at right guard. (He started there from 2012-14). Or that they should move him to right tackle and have Pears compete for one of the guard spots. Again, the Aug. 1 practice ought to be revealing.


The next question is: Which offensive linemen will be active on game days? If Kilgore and Martin are both starting, Looney is an option to be uniform. After all, he can play all three interior spots. In fact, he started games at left guard, right guard and center last year.

Dillon Farrell can play all five spots and played in eight contests last year. The swing tackle? That may be Boone's job even if he starts at guard this season. However, it will depend on how seventh-round pick Trent Brown performs in training camp and the preseason. His had a promising spring session. The true tests will come when Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Tank Carradine and Co. are wearing pads and coming at him full speed.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at