Thanks to a pair of Pro Bowl starters and a trio of Pro Bowl alternates on the offensive line, the San Francisco 49ers boast the league’s No. 4 rushing attack.
The 49ers running game excelled in 2012 thanks to the hard work of Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis.
Those efforts were chronicled in our season finale Gameday magazine. The “Five Guys” on the offensive line came into greater focus thanks to team photographer Terrell Lloyd and team graphic designer Ben Mayberry, who used an outdoor setting to showcase the unique personalities on the offensive line.
Get to know those “Five Guys” in this story.
San Francisco’s bruising running game has taken off in 2012 thanks to the work of a powerful quintet.
By Taylor Price, 49ers.com.
Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis – five offensive linemen from five completely different athletic backgrounds – have given the San Francisco 49ers one of the most versatile, yet feared, rushing attacks in the National Football League. The like-minded maulers all have unbridled love for the game, but more importantly; they enjoy what their fellow linemen bring to the table. The unified front has also done considerable damage this year. Besides posting the franchise’s fourth-best single-game rushing outing, a 311-yard effort against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, the group has twice won John Madden’s Most Valuable Protectors Award this season and has paved the way for 16 rushing touchdowns through 14 games, two more than the team posted in all of 2011.
The on-field execution has been music to offensive line coach Mike Solari’s ears.
“Any time you have a chance to bring all five to work as one, it’s rewarding,” says the veteran line coach who works with alongside assistant line coach Tim Drevno, now in their second year working in tandem. “Tim does a great job, (offensive coordinator) Greg (Roman) does a great job of bringing it all together.”
Solari considers the “Five Guys” to be working as one at all times. “It’s one heartbeat,” he says. Drevno views it similarly and also highlighted the unselfish qualities that make this year’s group one of the best in team history. “Anyone who plays on the offensive line is special,” says Drevno. “Everybody wants to throw the ball in the backyard or jump over the bed like a running back – nobody wants to go out in the middle of the street and push a car down the street with a wide base.”
Fortunately for the 49ers coaching staff, the entire offensive line has a passion for work, but also doing it together. The line features two Pro Bowlers (Staley in 2011 and Goodwin in 2009) and several up-and-coming linemen. Davis and Iupati were first-round picks in 2010, Boone, however, has worked his way through the ranks from an undrafted free agent tackle to a starting guard.
Together, the offensive line has worked together to become one of the top units in the NFL. They also know each other quite well from all the hours spent in meeting rooms, locker rooms, weight rooms, hotels, buses, airplanes, and oh yeah, the football field.
Linemen can be bashful when it comes to discussing themselves, so Gameday figured it would be better to have them describe a teammate on the offensive line. Here’s what stands out most about the “Five Guys” on the San Francisco 49ers offensive line.
RT ANTHONY DAVIS ON LG MIKE IUPATI
“Mike has a big heart, he just does. He can’t help but have compassion for everybody around him. He can be mad you – he’ll let you know why he’s mad – then he’ll be willing to fix it, or whatever it is. He’s just got a big heart, but he’s also one of the toughest people I know. When it comes to the other team, usually if he sees a Samoan/Tongan guy on the other side, he’ll give a nod of respect. After that, it’s just trying to take them out of the game. He’s a good person though. Mike, when he came in, I felt he was already really good. He was good already and I tell him that now. He says, ‘Man, I was bad my rookie year.’ But I don’t think he was ever bad. Some of his technique, he polished it. He was so strong and athletic he could get away with it at guard. Right before the game and right after the game though – that’s the most you’ll get out of him as far as being loud. Before the game, he gets a little crazy. He’ll spaz a little bit – turn the music up and he starts singing with it. During the game, he’s just doing his job, trying to punish people. If somebody starts talking to him, he’ll let it go. But when he gets tired of it, he snaps on them. One time I stopped him from walking to the defensive huddle. With him, it’s not, ‘yap back and forth.’ It’s, ‘I’m calm,’ to, ‘Now, I’m mad,’ to, ‘I’m coming to your huddle.’ We try to tell him no talking smack because he can’t separate it. It’s a good feeling to have him on my side. When I was growing up I always wanted to be a part of a great offensive line. I told Mike this two weeks ago – this is the first time playing with a guy who is physically past me. He gives me a bar I need to work up to, like his functional strength and core strength. I think it’s the first time in my life I can say that, so it’s cool, I told him that and everybody waits till you’re old or done playing to share with teammates how you really feel. We were just sitting there and I told him that because it’s cool. High school, college, everyone’s looking at you. But when you get to the NFL, it’s like, ‘That’s what I came here for, to be around guys like that.’”
RG ALEX BOONE ON C JONATHAN GOODWIN
“He is the most composed, most masterful offensive lineman I think I’ve ever played next to. Jon is like the, I mean, he is, like the President out there. He basically gets to run the show. And, if he wants to do something, he can do it. It’s huge to have a guy like that who understands the offense completely and really, truly knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t blink when something happens – that’s a huge deal for us. To have him out there with us now, it’s just big. His technique is amazing, the way he snaps the ball. I know shotgun snaps to run-blocking is hard, but Jon does the best job of it in the NFL. He’s always got the tightest hands; he’s very good with his leverage. All-around, just a great player and he’s consistent with his snaps which is good for us. We’re kind of spoiled. And he has some pretty nice football cleats – you’d think he’d be a tight end out there with those things like Vernon Davis-style. Jon loves them and says they’re the most comfortable. It’s huge having him, especially when it comes to the knowledge-part. Guys think offensive linemen aren’t very smart, but it’s the exact opposite at center. You have to really know what’s going on and be focused. Jon’s one of those guys who’s never zoned-out. He’s always in the play, in the moment. Sometimes it’s almost harder to talk to him in those moments, because he’s so focused on what he’s doing. I’ll ask him a question and he won’t answer me. I’ll ask again and again, then he’ll break out of his thinking and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ Going into a fight you want someone who knows what’s going on and I think Jon does a great job of getting everyone where they need to be and really picking up the whole mental side of the offensive line.”
C JONATHAN GOODWIN ON RT ANTHONY DAVIS
“He’s mean. He’s always the guy that does maybe the most talking during the games. But he plays physical – finishes his blocks. You rarely hear him talking nice to the guys on the other teams. I definitely like it. It’s part of this game. When he’s into it like that, I think he tends to play better. I think it’s something that’s a big part of his game and something he needs to keep doing. I also think he’s improved tremendously as a player in the past two years that I’ve been here. For his size, he’s got great feet and can move well. He’s just keeps getting better and better and he’s starting to see all his hard work pay off. I think this year he’s had some really nice finishing blocks. They’re blocks that have stood out on tape. He’s been driving guys into the ground and has done a great job of finishing blocks all season. When you see other guys doing it, it’s something that makes you want to get the ‘ohhs’ and the ‘ahhs’ in the meeting room. It becomes contagious to other guys who want to do the same thing. With Anthony, you know he’s got your back. He treats everyone almost like a brother and he definitely will look out for you and go to war with you.”
LB MIKE IUPATI ON LT JOE STALEY
“He’s a great player and he’s very flexible for a tackle. Joe can get low against a speed rush and can handle bullrushes, too. I think he’s one of the best tackles because he’s so athletic. I have a lot of respect for him, especially when I came in as a rookie. When I first got here, he was the one who helped me out the most as a player. He took me under his wing and showed me a lot. I respect him a lot, as a person and as a player. We know each other pretty well now. He’s one of those players, who is quick, athletic and can do it all. It’s hard to find those guys; luckily we have them with Joe and Anthony. They’re just big and athletic guys who can move. With the different plays we run, Joe can handle it all. He talks a lot, too. He motivates us and he’s a good leader on the O-line. In the meeting rooms, he’s smart as well, a really smart dude. He notices things right away – he’s always on it. He should be an All-Pro. I think he’s one of those guys you have to respect. For all the stuff he does for our offense, you need a quick tackle to do that, an athletic tackle to be able to move like that and show off all the running backs we have. He made the Pro Bowl last year and never got satisfied from it. He’s a tough dude, too. I appreciate playing with Joe and all offensive linemen. It’s fun playing next to him.”
LT JOE STALEY ON RG ALEX BOONE
“He’s a very hard worker. He’s very committed. There are a lot of things I could say about Alex. He works really hard and plays harder. He doesn’t play like he’s a first-year starter. He brings an attitude that he’s been doing this for a long time. He plays with that attitude every week. I think he has the confidence of a guy who’s been doing this at a very high level for a long time. He prepares and works very hard on and off the field – the weight room, the classroom. He’s done everything to prepare himself for his opportunity to be starting. He’s made the most of his opportunities and has played very well for us. Moving to guard from tackle is a tribute to his hard work. It’s been all him and the coaches, just working really hard. He’s put in the time and taken the most of his opportunities. It’s not easy to do that. He’s kind of a wildcard, but he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve been around. He’s actually really loud on the field, too. When you think about it what you’re doing, you’re missing the point. You’ve got to play loose and be yourself – it’s like anything in life. Boone plays football the way he is in life, has fun and talks a lot. He’s a very competitive person and takes a lot of pride in what he does. I think everybody is about doing their jobs, we don’t care what people think, if they fear us or if they think we’re a bunch of jokesters. We just want to win games and we want to do our jobs well. I think Alex is the epitome of that. I love playing with this group of guys and I’m really happy to have Alex as a part of it. He definitely deserves the success he’s had and has really solidified our offensive line. We’re lucky to have him.”
Tags: Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Joe Staley, Jonathan Goodwin, Mike Iupati, Mike Solari, Tim Drevno
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