In the past three drafts, Trent Baalke has grabbed six offensive linemen, and brought in another in FA. That’s a focused commitment to the old adage that the game is won and lost in the trenches. Only two guys are left from previous regimes: Joe Staley and Alex Boone.
Of the six picks snd 1 FA, only one is a tackle — Anthony Davis. The other six are interior linemen. The draft picks, Joe Looney, Dan Kilgore, Jason Slowey, and Chuck Persons are 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th rounders. These four guys, along with Boone, the new Adam Snyder, will all be battling in training camp for the one spot on the O-line that is currently unoccupied — good old perennially problematic right guard.
Boone and Kilgore look to have the first two shots at nailing down this job, but the competition among these five behemoths promises to be an interesting battle over the next few years. Good luck, guys. The competition among Santa Clara restaurants to land these hearty appetites should also be spirited. Table for nine, please. A very big table. The Bunyan model, please. Cows, pigs, chickens, and buffaloes run for your lives!
Other camp battles that should be interesting involve the pecking order at wide receiver, running back, cornerback, and backup quarterback. Gone are the days when the team entered camp scratching his head and wondering, “Can anybody play this game?!”
The WR competition will fascinate us all. Who are the starters going to be? Let’s assume Randy Moss is actually Randy Moss. The Minnesota & New England model, not the Oakland/Tennessee guy. If he isn’t, then Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham start. But if he is, we’ve got two young WRs with fat egos that must be fed and only one seat at the table. Jim Harbaugh is going to have all kinds of exotic mixtures and formations and groupings to get everybody involved, but who gets listed on TV as the nominal starter each week is going to mean a lot to both of these young dudes, and Moss as well. Crabtree has never had any challenges to his starting position. And neither has Moss. This could be fun.
Manningham was the third WR in New York, so he’s used to being a supporting cast member. But New York runs a lot more 3 WR groups than the 49ers under Harbaugh have shown thus far. And we know Harbaugh is going to want to mix number one draft pick A.J. Jenkins into the recipe, too. Add in the historical fact that WRs do not tend toward humble role player IDs, and we have the possibility of some strenous competition and some unseemly disgruntlements. Somebody is going to have to stuff their ego.
The other faskinating battle will be who wins the second banana QB role. In this competition, we have a backstage ego involved that was on display during the early days of the free agency period. That ego belongs to GM Baalke. He has never been an Alex Smith fan and drafted Colin Kaepernick to replace him. That goal got a little difficult after Smith’s historic 2011 season, so Baalke went after Peyton Manning, figuring nobody would complain about swapping out Smith for a consensus HOF QB. One who was down to his last year(s) of QBing and could provide a bridge to Kaepernick. Baalke also lowballed Smith’s new contract, hoping either or both would nudge him out of town. No dice to that and no dice to Manning and suddenly Kaepernick is looking not only at Smith’s shadow for the next ten years, but also the threat of Josh Johnson or Scott Tolzien passing him on the depth chart. At the very least, Kaepernick needs to look good enough to do a Kevin Kolb like trade a year or two from now for Baalke to feel good. Falling to third on the depth chart would not be a good thing.
Ah, the wonderful world of egos. It’s said by those striving for halo hats that egos must be defeated. They are the enemy of a higher self. Are they the enemy of a higher team, too? Or just a necessary evil in a world of violent competition. Either way, how Jim Harbaugh handles them will be a key to success in 2012.