When the San Francisco 49ers open up the season on the road against the Dallas Cowboys they will need to go with their bread and butter, and that’s smash-mouth football. A team that prides themselves on imposing their will down in the trenches, it will be up to their strong-willed offensive line to get the job done.
A task easier said than done as the 49ers are still up in the air with G Alex Boone’s status, it may be up to third-year G Joe Looney to step in and be the next man-up. However, Looney has taken nice strides as of late and looks to be holding his own, as he made some nice blocks during the preseason. A former fourth-round pick (No. 117) out of Wake Forest, the former Demon Deacon will now get his opportunity to shine as the 49ers coaching staff have placed their trust in him. But with Looney getting his first career start, how will the rest of the 49ers offensive line fare as they go up against the Cowboys defensive line? Considering the Cowboys lost two of their top defensive players from last season in OLB DeMarcus Ware (Denver Broncos) and MLB Sean Lee (torn ACL), they should have their way early on.
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The Cowboys strength is clearly on the left-side as six-year veteran DE George Selvie and former Pro Bowl DT Henry Melton anchor that side. Selvie had a career-season last year as he recorded 45 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 7 sacks while Melton was slowed by a torn ACL while with Chicago. And with Melton getting zero snaps during this year’s preseason as he recovers from that injury, it remains to be seen how well conditioned he will be on game day. Nonetheless, the two should have their fair share of wins down in the trenches. But what about the 49ers left side? That’s where I think the 49ers will benefit most.
A side that features arguably the best one-two punch in the NFL at the tackle-guard position, look for T Joe Staley and LG Mike Iupati to hit that lunch pale hard. Two All-Pros who are absolute maulers in the run game, I think that both RB Frank Gore and rookie second-round pick (No. 57) RB Carlos Hyde will greatly benefit from that strength and run wild on that side.
Both Gore and Hyde are patient runners which in turn allows plays to develop and that’s where their success will come from. Gore had a modest outing in their last meeting as he rushed 20 times for 47 yards and one touchdown. Look for that to change this time around as the 49ers incorporate Hyde into the mix while easily topping 120 yards rushing.
Not to mention, underrated FB Bruce Miller can hit that second-level hard while swallowing middle linebackers at the point of attack, Gore and/or Hyde should have some big plays in Week 1, as they dish/dash their way to a big day. With the Cowboys ranking No. 27 in the NFL last season in stopping the run, look for that to continue as the 49ers should have their day while killing the time of possession.