After losing Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois to free agency, the 49ers were determined to find strong replacements. During the off season, it was a priority to solidify the front three. The 49ers signed nose tackle Ian Williams to a two-year contract extension, and then signed defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey to a two-year contract. In the 2013 NFL Draft, the 49ers used a fifth round pick to select Alabama defensive tackle Quinton Dial. They also signed undrafted free agent Mike Purcell, a defensive tackle out of Wyoming.
Losing Williams to injury early in the season was rough. However, Dorsey was able to step in and it was like he didn't miss a beat. We all sighed with relief.
Unfortunately, when Dorsey suffered a severe hamstring strain in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals, it was pretty devastating. Sure, we have depth -- but how much? Guys like Williams and Dorsey are really the unsung heroes we depend on. They receive little glory, but we sure notice them when they are missing.
With our starters injured, the 49ers had no choice but to call the next man up. We will get to see our rookies cut their teeth right before our eyes. It was difficult to imagine the 49ers activating Quinton Dial to the 53-man roster with less than one week of practice under his belt. However, it is encouraging to see the defensive coaches are confident in his abilities.
Dial will be asked to step up in a big way. What can we expect to see from him? Let's get up to speed on our young defensive tackle.
Dial is the quintessential 3-4 defensive end. He stands 6'5", 318 pounds and is blessed with long arms (34.5 inches). He is able to see the see the ball carrier, even over a tall tackle. When I picture Dial, I think about how Calais Campbell has an advantage with his size alone. I can see a lot of similarities with Dial, and believe he has amazing potential.
At Alabama, Dial had several starts at nose tackle. Even though it was not his preferred position, there were times the team called on him to step up. He is versatile. And versatility is an outstanding quality for defensive player. It is no surprise, even with only three NFL practices, the 49ers chose him off the Reserve/NFI to occupy a roster spot. He can be plugged in relatively easily.
Dial can command a double-team when playing nose tackle. He is big, tall, strong and has long arms. He can get his hands on the offensive linemen. Depending on what position he plays, Dial can force the backs toward the middle of the field. But, his best attribute is his ability to occupy bodies, so the linebackers can bring the pressure and rack up the tackles.
I know many scouts have given Dial lower marks due to his numbers at Alabama. However, what they failed to point out is, Dial is an unselfish player. Players like him sacrifice themselves for the sake of the scheme. They rarely get the praise, the credit, or the sacks. And, in the NFL, they do not get the cash.
Some players do not have the capacity to be that selfless and can become problems if asked to play a a supporting role. This is why teams need to identify this type of mentality before he is in the system. The 49ers noticed Dial's physique and his abilities. Still, I have to think Dial's attitude was also an attraction. The fact Dial's numbers were not spectacular in college shows he is not looking for a glamour position on the defense.
Another potential negative was Dial's turf toe condition. Turf toe is a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe, and it can be extremely painful.
Normally, turf toe can be relieved with conservative treatment. However, Dial had surgery this past January to alleviate his symptoms. Dial has shown the ability to play through it. But, given the significant rest and ability to completely heal, Dial has a better opportunity at recovery.
It appears the 49ers are taking a patient approach this year, and focusing on the long term. Although it can be assumed the team did not plan for this extent of injury on their defensive line, the 49ers had contingencies in place -- planning for the worst case scenario. The 49ers philosophy has proven useful. The depth is relatively wealthy. Given the huge potential of Dial, the 49ers could see the evolution of a strong talent. I am anxious to see what Dial has to offer.