FOOTBALL: 49ers’ Staley looks to bounce back from rough outing

FOOTBALL: 49ers' Staley looks to bounce back from rough outing

Joe Staley may be the most gregarious, loose, fun-loving member
of the 49ers. Walk into the locker room on any given day and you
might find the left tackle singing a Billy Joel song at full throat
and urging his teammates to join in for the chorus.
By Matthew Barrows – McClatchy Newspapers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Joe Staley may be the most gregarious, loose, fun-loving member of the 49ers. Walk into the locker room on any given day and you might find the left tackle singing a Billy Joel song at full throat and urging his teammates to join in for the chorus.

On Monday, however, Staley was in a decidedly darker mood.

His arms were alternately folded tightly across his chest or he was tapping the side of his leg in annoyance as he addressed the media for the first time since Saturday’s offensive-line breakdown against the Texans.

He said he couldn’t wait to hit the practice field in the afternoon.

“We watched the film (Monday) morning and we’re very disgusted with what we saw on the offensive line,” said Staley, the unit’s de facto captain. “And our coach challenged us, and we challenged ourselves (to) come out and have a really great week of practice and a really great game. We’ve got to get going. The season’s upon us. We’ve got to play a lot better than that.”

The 49ers like to say they have seven starting-caliber offensive linemen – the five starters and two backups – and every member of that group struggled at various times against the Texans. Houston held San Francisco to six first downs, sacked the 49ers quarterbacks three times and recorded an additional five quarterback hits.

Staley, who had drawn praise from coach Jim Harbaugh for his performance in training camp, had perhaps the roughest outing.

He allowed the first sack when, in the opening quarter, 260-pound defensive end Connor Barwin staggered him and drove him backward into quarterback Alex Smith. Barwin got around Staley on two other plays to put big hits on Smith.

Staley acknowledged that he didn’t do much film work on Barwin leading up to the game, but he didn’t want to use that as an excuse.

“Just got beat,” he said. “Got to get better. I got beat. I’m not going to give you any excuses. I played terrible.”

Although the same group of offensive linemen has begun every game during the exhibition season, Harbaugh said the starting group is not settled. Free-agent acquisition Jonathan Goodwin has alternated at center with Adam Snyder. Tackle Alex Boone has stepped in at right tackle at times for Anthony Davis. Boone’s likely role this season will be as “swing tackle” – the player who would step in on either the right or left side if there is an injury.

Still, Harbaugh would not rule out a continuation of the platoon system when the regular season begins.

“We have to do better in our pass protection,” he said. “I think that was obvious to anybody. And some of it is coming from technique. Some if it is fundamental. Some we got beat to the punch.”

Some offensive linemen refused to talk to reporters after the game, and at least one declined to talk Monday. Goodwin agreed with Staley that the group had a tension-filled and emotional meeting Monday morning.

“Guys weren’t happy,” Goodwin said. “I think everyone wants to play better, and no offensive lineman wants to see his quarterback get continually hit.”

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