As reports have surfaced that the 49ers have agreed to terms with former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, I thought we'd take a look at where he might fit along San Francisco's defensive line. Some feel that Dorsey's relative lack of production as a 3-4 defensive end means he may be better off in a 4-3 defense as a tackle, while others feel that Dorsey would also be too small to play nose tackle in a 3-man front. Dorsey's listed size on KC's website is just 297lbs.
As is often the case, players' listed sizes are not always an accurate representation of the weight at which they're currently playing. Ricky Jean Francois had said that he hasn't been as "light" as 295lbs. since his days at LSU, yet he still shows-up as the svelte featherweight on the roster page.
Dorsey, in fact, was listed at 316lbs. coming out of LSU prior to the draft, which appears to be close to his current weight, to me. Also keep in mind that he's only 6'2", not 6'5" (or taller) like some defensive linemen are. His 300+ pounds are lower and rounder, giving him a better base with which to anchor.
In terms of complaints that Dorsey didn't get enough pressure on the QB in Kansas City, first of all let's consider that he's a 3-4 DL. It's not really his job to get after the QB, though it's a nice bonus. His job (wherever he plays along the line) is to either command a double-team, or clog a running lane (either by holding the point or by penetrating it, meeting the ball-carrier in the backfield) and force a runner to where a linebacker is eagerly waiting to take his head off.
Some of Dorsey's early scouting reports from before the draft seem to emphasize that he has skills valuable to a 3-4 DL, as noted below (NFL.com):
When he stays low in his pads and keeps his hands inside the framework, he generates a good surge off the snap and into the blocker, doing a stellar job of clogging the rush lanes and collapsing the pocket.
Shows good feet and body control working in space and plays with a high motor...Understands blocking schemes and has no trouble retaining plays, picking things up quickly...Has long, functionally strong arms and large hands to grab and drag the ball carriers down.
Has become a physically dominant player who demands double-teams, as he does a good job in using his strength and explosiveness to close gaps and play with good leverage...Doesn't give up much ground to double-teams and creates good separation with his long arms...Reacts well to block pressure and locates the ball quickly...Strong inside run defender who consistently keeps his motor running, as he can make plays up and down the line of scrimmage
In terms of pass-rush prowess, I'm shocked that anyone expected any. He had just 13 sacks, 27 tackles for loss, and seven quarterback pressures in 51 collegiate games. Why are people disappointed that he didn't get after the QB more?? Perhaps they didn't study-up on Dorsey when he came and thought that his lofty draft status automatically ensured sacks.
Dorsey seems to be an ideal 3-4 DL who has the athleticism and strength to play all over the defensive line in base defense. He will probably spell Justin Smith and Ray McDonald on first and second downs so that the latter two are fresher on third down, where their skills as pass rushers exceed those of Dorsey.
You'll recall the widely-held belief that the 49ers lack of rotation on the DL is what caused the pass-rush to drop off later in the season and into the playoffs. We all saw what happens when NFL QBs have time to throw the ball, too.
Depending on the money, I think this is a solid signing for the 49ers and one that should pay immediate dividends. Dorsey is young and could potentially man a spot on the DL for years to come, if things go well. At the very least, they got some experienced depth on the defensive line after losing Isaac Sopoaga, potentially RJF, and with an aging Justin Smith.