Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree, Andrew Tiller, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Thomas, Carlos Hyde, Carolina Panthers, Chip Kelly, Daniel Kilgore, Garrett Celek, Joe Staley, Mark Barron, NFL, Robert Quinn, San Francisco 49ers, Zane Beadles
For my first amateur adventure in film of the season, Dan asked me to take a look at the Los Angeles Rams’ visit to the San Francisco 49ers, and after putting out an appeal on social media Simon from the Gridiron Gentlemen was kind enough to suggest I look at their offensive line to see how they tamed the Rams.
I am by no means an expert on line play, but I do enjoy watching defensive lines so it will be nice to turn the tables for the week.
I think it may be impossible to completely shut out Aaron Donald, but he had a remarkably quiet game. The 49ers’ line was certainly good in pass protection, often giving Blaine Gabbert a clean pocket, even if that didn’t always result in a completed pass. In fact, several times he simply saw the space open up before him and scrambled for a gain or first down. The Rams didn’t get a sack in this game, and the closest they came was probably when Donald beat left guard Zane Beadles when matched up one on one with him but couldn’t get to Gabbert before he threw the ball and was called for roughing the passer. This was not the only occasion Donald got through the line, he put a lovely swim move on centre Daniel Kilgore in the third quarter when the Ram’s blitzed five, but Gabbert was able to get rid of the ball or escape for a run. It may have resulted in a three and out for the offence, but they avoided the turnover and in so doing they negated what should have been one of the strengths of the Rams.
The run blocking was less obviously good overall, but the highlight of the week for me watching the line was a play that Simon mentioned on twitter, which really was beautiful. At the end or their second drive in the first quarter, the 49ers were 2nd & 11 on the Rams’ 11 yard line when Carlos Hyde ran in the touchdown thanks to some beautiful blocking. The 49ers lined up with 12 personnel in a shotgun formation with both tight ends to the right of the formation, one on the line and one behind, and Carlos Hyde stood to the left of Blaine Gabbert. On the snap of the ball right guard Andrew Tiller pulled left and sealed Rams’ end Robert Quinn whilst left tackle Joe Staley crashed down on Cam Thomas playing tackle and then blocked middle linebacker Alec Ogletree. For the Rams, Mark Barron who is listed as a linebacker/safety and lined up close to the line had correctly identified the gap the 49ers were aiming for, but tight end Garrett Celek had also pulled left and cleared out Barron easily, allowing Hyde to run in the touchdown whilst barely being touched before he crosses the goal line. There weren’t too many such exciting run plays in this game, but as the line develops in their new scheme under head coach Chip Kelly this play serves as a tantalising example of what might be possible.
Dan asked me to watch this game as he wanted to know what happened, to which I think the answer is that the Rams offence was ineffective, which is hardly unusual, but also their offensive line was able to control what should have been one of the Rams big advantages. The 49ers face a very tough ask this week in Carolina, and the offence is hardly flowing but it’s possible that their line at least is heading in the right direction.