The 49ers offensive line has really stepped things up since looking so poor to start the season. Through the first three games, the line was poor in pass protection and run blocking. Joe Staley was making mistakes that set the team back and Anthony Davis was thoroughly abused by Jason Babin and other pass rushers, getting Alex Smith beat down with regularity. Frank Gore couldn't get yardage without help from his guys, being able to depend only on Mike Iupati. It was a sad state of affairs.
But as the rest of the team got better and started to execute offensively, the o-line improved and grew as a unit. They're not suddenly this unstoppable force, but with Staley and Davis playing better on the outside, it's covered up some errors on the inside from Jonathan Goodwin and Adam Snyder/Chilo Rachal. On Sunday though, they're set to face one of their biggest tests yet.
Brian Orakpo is a player that the 49ers passed up on in favor of Michael Crabtree some season ago, and he's been a force to be reckoned with. Orakpo has been the bright spot whenever Washington has underwhelmed, constantly on the attack and constantly a threat. He'll be lining up and going against Staley on Sunday. On the flipside, the 49ers will be hoping Aldon Smith can perform at or above the level that Orakpo has played at.
Across from Orakpo is another great player though - Ryan Kerrigan. If the 49ers feel Aldon is a defensive rookie of the year candidate, he'll get stiff competition from Kerrigan and Denver's Von Miller. Kerrigan will be working against Anthony Davis on the right side and with Orakpo, they provide a formidable test for the 49ers offensive line. Will Alex Smith be able to stay upright, and will Frank Gore be able to run the ball? The game could very well be decided by these matchups at the tackles.