NFC West: Central Michigan
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Left tackle Joe Staley is one of the more engaging personalities in the 49ers' locker room. He's also fun to watch in games if you like aggressive offensive-line play.
Staley, the 28th player chosen in the 2007 draft, is trying to temper some of that aggressiveness while making the transition to left tackle, where one mistake can expose a right-handed quarterback to unseen punishment. But Staley, 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, also knows the aggressiveness is what makes him a good player.
Staley brought up a play against Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, a fellow Central Michigan product, during a recent conversation about the balance between aggression and taking unnecessary risks. Jenkins beat Staley with an inside move during the Packers-49ers exhibition game Aug. 16.
Staley: "The first two steps, I had good position and I just wanted to kill him. I got away from my technique and he spun on me right away. So I went after him, took my three steps and I just wanted to blow his [expletive] up. Plus, he's from Central Michigan."
Staley prides himself on technique and having quick feet. He managed to push Jenkins to the ground on the play in question, but Jenkins still disrupted the play.
Staley: "One of those examples, you get away from your technique. Just because you're aggressive doesn't always mean [you prevail]. Not being a big tubby fat [guy], I could actually move back there. Got him on the ground. Times like that, being too aggressive can hurt you.
In preparing for a recent matchup against the Bears, Staley watched Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones at work during the Seattle-Chicago game Aug. 16. Jones is one of the more patient offensive tackles around. Shoulder injuries have prevented him from being as aggressive in the running game at times. Staley, who turns 24 on Saturday, still has low miles.
Staley: "I'm aggressive. When I don't have success is when I don't play aggressive. When I'm playing real aggressive is when I have more success."
Left tackles traditionally earn more money than right tackles because they protect the quarterback's blind side. Left tackles tend to be more athletic. Right tackles tend to be more physical in the running game. That's changing.
For Staley, the move to the left side might make his job easier in pass protection. Right tackles in the NFC West line up against proven pass rushers Patrick Kerney (Seattle) and Leonard Little (St. Louis). At left tackle, Staley will face Rams rookie Chris Long and Seahawks rookie Lawrence Jackson (unless Darryl Tapp, more of a pure pass rusher, wins the starting job at right defensive end).