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Previewing The 49ers Starters: LT Joe Staley

Continuing our looks at each starter on the 49ers' roster, we're going to look at the left side of the offensive line next. Today, we'll take a look at Joe Staley, and then we'll examine Mike Iupati (and go down the line, skipping right guard, because who knows who will be starting there? It's the only unsettled starting position on the roster, strictly speaking). Staley is the team's left tackle and he's signed for the next century or so, last we checked.

Last Season: Staley started slowly, as is par the course for him, but really solidified through the second half of the season. The offensive line as a whole struggled early on, but by the end, the 49ers had themselves a very solid line, and though many think he didn't quite deserve it, Staley was sent to the Pro Bowl. Maybe what he had wasn't strictly a Pro Bowl season, but it was pretty darn good.

Big Question: Will he be mature? Staley is a funny guy - and that is just fine. He can be the clown and he can be immature off the field. He'll always be well-respected by his teammates. But on the field, he makes those rookie mistakes like you'd expect ... from a rookie. It's frustrating for 49ers fans to see Staley get called on a false start three times in a game, and it's frustrating to see him make the fundamental mistakes. He needs to mature and stop playing like a strong left tackle only 70 percent of the time.

Projection: Staley didn't necessarily improve from the season before last to last season, but he did get better as each season progressed. Maybe the offseason gave him some fits and he can build on a full offseason this time around. Still, Staley made the Pro Bowl without really ... earning it, in most peoples' eyes. Smart money is on him not making it this time around, though he's not necessarily in for a poor season.

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