Article Title: Where is the beef?
As former legendary San Francisco 49er wide receiver Terrell Owens signed with the Dallas Cowboys after earlier in his career having trounced upon their most sacred star at mid-field, the San Francisco 49ers signed away perennial 10-time Pro Bowl left guard Larry Allen.
The Dallas Cowboys cut Larry Allen after they had signed former 49ers guard Kyle Kosier, who played last season in Detroit. Boy did they get an upgrade or what? Larry Allen fell out of personal favor earlier on when new head coach Bill Parcells was brought in to resurrect the All-American football team and bring it back to glory.
Bill Parcells did not find favor in Larry Allen as he questioned Allen's resilience after a slow return from an ankle injury. Parcells also went on to encourage Allen to participate in the team's off-season program a notice he didn't take Parcells up on in favor of his own personal routine that landed him in Parcell's doghouse.
A former star at Sonoma State in 1992 and 1993, Allen has been reunited with former Cowboys coaches in offensive line coach George Warhop and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Both of these coaches are creatures of habit that look at big offensive linemen as a plus and are adept at one-on-one blocking.
Some question this move though by the 49ers as it being far-reaching and what does Larry Allen actually have left in his tank at 34-years old and has made the Pro Bowl in 10 of his 12 seasons in Dallas. He was also named All-Pro eight times and was named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1990-2000 era.
Some would say that he has really nothing left physically in the tank to perform and is on the downside of an illustrious career. There is no doubt that he is in the twilight of his career but can he still make a lasting impact upon an offense that ranked dead last in the entire league last season and help mature the very young linemen currently on our roster.
The phenomenal thing about the past offensive lines for the San Francisco 49ers was when it was able to pull its guards and run sweeps and traps. Should a healthy Larry Allen and Jeremy Newberry materialize this next season together, this force becomes one to be reckoned with as a mighty force up the middle.
Larry Allen of course was the first Sonoma State player drafted into the NFL when the Cowboys took him with the 46th overall pick in 1994. Since then Sonoma State has since dropped its football program. He is in fact most famous for leading the way for all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith while in Dallas, and Allen has played every position on the line except of course but center.
Other clubs expressed interest in Larry Allen such as the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks but the factor that swayed him the most was that he chose to reunite with his former coaches in George Warhop and Norv Turner.
The 340-pound lineman will team up with 325-pound left tackle Jonas Jennings on the left side of the line. Both of these linemen had met by sitting down to a dinner and discussing various subjects, and overall Jennings helped convince Larry Allen to join the San Francisco 49ers after 12 seasons as a Dallas Cowboy.
"If it was not Dallas, I wanted to go back home," said Allen, who grew up in Napa County and owns a house in the East Bay town of Danville.
What was once the thinnest of lines throughout the league in terms of experience and girth is now a definite strength with the addition of Larry Allen to the fold. The size differential and bulk will ideally lend a big hand to a rushing attack that was non-existent to an offense that ranked last in every statistical category across the board last season.
Acquiring Larry Allen spells insurance in my book and seems to be a great move on behalf of Mike Nolan who emphasizes a large offensive line back in Baltimore. By Allen signing means a lot of things for the younger offensive linemen on the team, as many will now be competing for playing time behind seasoned veteran players right from the get go.
Justin Smiley, who started all 16 games last season at left guard, will move to right guard, where head coach Mike Nolan expects him to able to start. Eric Heitmann and David Baas also will play some at right guard, Nolan has already indicated. Both will feature more repetitions at center in the unlikely event that Jeremy Newberry struggles with rehabilitation with his knee.
Mike Nolan being a defensive coordinator knows what it is like to game plan against a veteran like Larry Allen. It is in his opinion that Larry Allen is just what the doctor ordered for this anemic offensive line and for Allen to instill a solid seal of protection around second-year quarterback Alex Smith.
The leadership role on this unit is something that was questioned from time to time last season. His teaming up with veterans such as Jonas Jennings and Jeremy Newberry will only enhance the process of subjecting the younger linemen to a higher standard one they all struggled with to find just last season as an indicator.
There are players and personnel that regret seeing Larry Allen leave the Dallas Cowboys and note that in small media interviews as this deal was announced by the 49ers. He provided key blocking that helped spring Emmitt Smith to rush for 17,162 yards as a Cowboy, and was the final link to the great Dallas teams of the 1990-2000 era that won three Super Bowls in just four years. TV analyst John Madden once called Larry Allen the best offensive lineman of all time.
And from experience and growing up and watching Larry Allen back then and seeing him battle in the trenches I believe that analysis. I saw on many occasions where Larry Allen simply manhandled his opponents like they were mere paper bags and throw them off to the side to make a gaping hole for Emmitt Smith to run through.
He is in all senses just what the doctor ordered for our offensive line that has been non-productive in a big way in both the rushing aspect of the game but passing as well.
He will provide the time for both the running backs to find seams to run through and for second-year quarterback Alex Smith to re-discover himself and find his comfort zone so to speak in the passing attack by the line providing those few key seconds for him to get the ball off and directed towards its target of destination.
"I am disappointed to see Larry go," quarterback Drew Bledsoe told the Dallas Morning News. "Playing with Larry was a unique experience because he was by far the strongest guy I ever played with."
The staggering strength of Larry Allen is well documented as he has bench-pressed an awesome 700 pounds. In a skills contest at the 2005 Pro Bowl, he lifted 225 pounds 43 times, eight repetitions better than the closest competitor. This kind of physical beast will be just what we have been asking all along, "Where is the beef," on this offensive line.
His nasty streak out on the playing surface is also something that attracted Mike Nolan into getting this veteran signed on the team for the next two years. He brings an attitude to the line that will become infectious and will help motivate the younger linemen to execute and play better together.
This is something that will be a key factor in helping reduce some of the many penalties thrown at the line of scrimmage throughout the 2005 NFL season. His temper can sometimes get the best of him as it was on display last season while his team was in visiting the San Francisco 49ers inside Monster Park.
He violently shook Dallas kicker Jose Cortez, 135 pounds lighter than Allen by the facemask after Cortez missed an extra point. If all of you remember Jose Cortez also a former 49er kicker was famous for his bungling field goal attempts and even extra points with us. Seeing him shaken like he was by Larry Allen that day brought out a mean streak in myself in enjoying such a festivity.
"Everyone who plays against Larry Allen week in and week out throughout the course of an NFL season has his work cut out for him and knows it," said head coach Mike Nolan. "It would only be a fool who tells you different. I would say without question he?s one of the greatest offensive linemen ever. He is one of the best."
And without a doubt he is one of the best in the business. Nolan is committed to starting him alongside Jonas Jennings as the 2006 NFL season unfolds. It will be interesting to see how we are going to use both Eric Heitmann and Adam Snyder as the season progresses.
Adam Snyder is expected to challenge Kwame Harris at the right tackle position and to be honest he probably would be a better fit there considering the poor play registered by Harris last season.
Both David Baas and Eric Heitmann can play the center position, which is occupied by veteran Jeremy Newberry, but Nolan has indicated that the center position may be rotated to provide freshness and continuity on the line.
Newberry and his rehabilitation for his right knee is right on schedule and it looks like he will be ready to go come training camp. Larry Allen is expected to register is tenacity and nasty style of play right at training camp and to get the rank and file understood that this is all business and no play.
I am hopeful that Larry Allen adds a new dimension to our offensive line. He is there to tutor and be a mentor to the youth that is struggling to find an identity with the team.
Adding a solid veteran presence in Larry Allen makes a lot of sense in my opinion and Mike Nolan has hit another big nail on the head in addressing the needs of this football team.
I am looking forward with envy to see how the line comes together and performs for both the passing attack in protection for Alex Smith and the gaps created for Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore to take full advantage of. With what we have on the roster right now I believe that to be a real possibility.
"We need to get everyone tough," said Allen. "I love being nasty out there. You have to make the other guy quit."
That to me is the formula for success with this line. And if George Warhop and Norv Turner can work some real offensive magic we have a shot at being in the winning column a lot this next season. I believe a milestone will be reached this coming season and a division title soon ahead should Alex Smith prove to be everything we hoped for.