It's far from a certainty, but we hear a changing of the guard could be coming on the 49ers' offensive line with the versatile Adam Snyder possibly closing in on Chilo Rachal for the starting ORG job.
Entering his seventh season, Snyder has been raising eyebrows in players-only workouts after getting his weight down to a little less than 300 pounds — his lowest weight since his sophomore year at Oregon — and claiming to be in the best shape of his life.
He had only two starts, both at right guard, in 15 games last season, but many close observers believe the performance of the O-line in Snyder's first start in Week Two vs. the Saints might have been its best all season.
"At Stanford under (new Niners head coach Jim) Harbaugh, the guards did nothing but pull," one team insider said. "The Niners' pulling last season came only behind (starting OLG Mike) Iupati. Losing all that weight should help his (Snyder's) pulling ability. He's very athletic, and with him starting, the team could pull to either side.
"But it's really hard to tell right now whether Snyder has an edge on Rachal. I know a lot of people thought he should have played more than Rachal last year, but (former head coach Mike) Singletary just loved Rachal."
At the very least, Snyder figures to be the line's most valuable reserve. With longtime starting C Eric Heitmann out for the year with a neck injury and the status of free agents David Baas and Tony Wragge up in the air, Snyder has willingly filled the void at center in workouts this offseason, in addition to taking on a noticeable leadership role on the line along with starting OLT Joe Staley.
"No question he's the top reserve with his ability to play all five positions on the line, now that he can also play center," the insider said of Snyder. "He's probably a better guard than any other position. His arms are a little short for tackle on a regular basis."
Speaking of Staley, who missed the last seven games in 2010 with a broken fibula (14 games missed the past two seasons) and did not play up to his usual standards before the injury, team insiders tell us he really appears poised for a big bounce-back campaign.
"He's still everything you want in a left tackle when he's healthy," the insider said of Staley. "Smart, athletic and very dedicated."