(Editor's Note: With the offseason in full swing, the focus is now shifting to the 2016 season, where the Cowboys have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Not only do the Cowboys face five playoff teams but many of the top players in football. So the writers of DallasCowboys.com have ranked the Top 50 players expected to be on the field this season, including the Cowboys. Today, we continue the list with 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley).
Team:San Francisco 49ers
Experience: 9 seasons
What's the Deal:It's unfortunate for Staley that he was drafted in the same year and has the same first name as dominant Browns left tackle Joe Thomas – because it certainly feels like he's been overshadowed by his Cleveland contemporary for much of his career. Despite that fact, Staley has proven his credentials as one of the league's best tackles over much of the last decade. He's been a mainstay in San Francisco since the day he was drafted, back in 2007. He was a starter at right tackle in his very first season and shifted to the left side in Year 2. Since then, he has started all 130 games he has played in for the 49ers, missing just 14 games over the course of his career – and all of those absences coming back during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Staley is a five-time Pro Bowler, starting in 2011 and going up until this past season. He's also a three-time second-team All-Pro, and it's fair to assume he'd have a couple of first-team selections if not for the consistent excellence of Thomas.
Expect This:Staley will turn 32 in August, just before his 10th season in the league, so it's fair to say he's easing in to the back end of his NFL career. He might no longer have the top-notch athleticism expected of a franchise left tackle – such as Tyron Smith, for instance. That said, Staley is still one of the top tackles in the league, and his level of play hasn't dropped in the past five years. With so much uncertainty in San Francisco under new coach Chip Kelly, he'll need Staley to maintain his high level of play to bring some stability to an otherwise unknown offense.
Previous Meetings:Given the length of his illustrious career, it's not surprising that Staley's Week 4 matchup against Dallas this year will be the fourth of his career. His first meeting against the Cowboys came back in 2008, at the old Texas Stadium. Tony Romo completed 23-of-39 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns – with seven of those passes going to Terrell Owens for 213 yards and a score. Staley was also on hand in 2011 for Romo's famous return from a punctured lung to lead the Cowboys back from a 24-14 deficit in a 27-24 overtime win. The 2014 season opener saw Staley's first career win against Dallas, as the 49ers stormed to a 28-17 win on the strength of a plus-four turnover margin.
Bryan Broaddus Scouting Report:
- A body with good length and a frame -- was a converted tight end in college. A good run blocker that is competitive and works to finish his blocks.
- Gains an advantage with his quickness out of start. Explosive with an impact pop and surge. Gets movement on short yardage plays. Gains position with quickness and flexibility. Can bend. Can play flat-footed and adjust with lateral slide to movement and blocks two move pass rusher.
- Rarely out of position or off balance. Skilled in space and the second level. Nifty feet allow him to adjust and redirect. Plays with a good base. Hard man to work around. Angular build that can wall off and screen the defender and create running lanes.
- Has long arms and big hands to control a pass rusher, anchor, and stop a charge. Explosive use of hands to lock out and get control. Position and adjust his hands. Ability to create separation. Can jolt and deliver punch. Especially effective when he can down block in the running game. When he shoves a defender you see them go flying.
- Nice on the double team block as well. Doesn't matter if he has to post or drive – he can get the job done. Very aware player. Not fooled on twist stunts or games with linebackers. Very similar player to what the Cowboys have in Tyron Smith. Both have outstanding physical traits.
The writers of DallasCowboys.com have ranked the Top 50 players expected to be on the field this season, including the Cowboys.