Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
The 49ers defensive line has seen some turnover this offseason, particularly at the nose tackle position. The team let Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois depart in free agency, signed free agent Glenn Dorsey and drafted Quinton Dial. Dorsey is considered by some to be the front-runner at the nose tackle position, and Dial will likely get opportunities in a RJF type of role.
In light of the additions, it is easy to forget the in-house talent. The 49ers signed nose tackle Ian Williams to a two-year contract extension. It was not an overwhelming contract, but it would seem to indicate the team was sufficiently intrigued by his talent. The 49ers let their two primary nose tackles walk, and they are creating a competition between players with limited nose tackle experience in the NFL. Dorsey was primarily a 3-4 defensive end, Dial is a rookie and Williams has not spent a lot of time on the active list.
Dorsey Williams was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and made the 53-man roster right out of his first camp. He played in one regular season game as a rookie, and then played in three regular season games in his second season. Williams was active September 30 at the New York Jets, and then the final two regular season games against the Seahawks and Cardinals.
What to expect in 2013
Williams has looked solid in preseason play through two seasons, but he also was coming into the game rather far down the depth chart. This year, even if he is coming in after Dorsey, he will at least get some time against second stringers and maybe first stringers, as opposed to facing the end of the opposing roster's offense.
Williams and Dorsey aren't the biggest guys in the world, which will be interesting to follow for the nose tackle role. Isaac Sopoaga was bigger than both guys. Of course, the nose tackle role is not heavily emphasized (no pun intended) by the 49ers defense. They need a guy who can fill the role, but he is not going to spend a ton of time on the field given the 49ers use of four-man fronts.
It's hard to predict how this position battle will play out because of the limited exposure for both guys. Williams has limited experience outside of the preseason, and Dorsey's experience is at 3-4 defensive end and some defensive tackle in four-man fronts. I think the 49ers will be fine at nose tackle, but that's as much supposition as anything at this point.
Odds of making the roster
You give a guy a two-year extension, I think you want him around. While Williams may not be a 100% lock, I have to think he's pretty close. One drawback to his roster chances would be if he proves to only be nose tackle material, and not somebody with versatility to play defensive tackle in the nickel. The 49ers have added bodies to rotate in and out, but versatility is always a big plus. I don't think that's a huge concern for Williams right now, but it will be something to keep in mind, particularly depending on what we see from Quinton Dial.