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.
Next up in our 90-in-90 series is Ray McDonald, a player with whom we're all familiar as he's spent his entire career with the 49ers. McDonald spent his early days with the team as a backup to Isaac Sopoaga at defensive end before taking over as the starter when Soap was moved to nose tackle.
For the most part McDonald has been a solid player, good against the run and occasionally creating a little pass rush -- just what you want out of your left defensive end in a 3-4 (or 4-3 over, but I digress). He's often mentioned as one of the most unheralded and underrated players on the defense, as well.
Why he could improve in 2013
McDonald is really doing his job well at this point, but if you had to point to anything for a defensive lineman, it would be more tackles-for-loss and/or sacks. Again, McDonald is playing as well as the team needs right now, but any gravy on the top in the form of negative plays would be a huge bonus, especially with a secondary that has some question marks.
Another year with Jim Tomsula coupled with the drop-off in sack production when Justin Smith was hurt could be key factors for McDonald to seize some of his own spotlight in the form of splash plays. With the aforementioned Smith getting older, and a fierce competition for his spot, perhaps McDonald stands a chance to flip to the right side one day if he can show more ability to cause disruption, although that's not something we've considered much to this point.
Why he could regress in 2013
I don't know if McDonald can really regress at this point because he already plays a quiet game that's solid behind the scenes. I suppose if he started giving up big runs to his side while single-teamed or failed to make routine tackles, those would qualify. I doubt this would happen though with all of the competition brought in along the defensive line, as McDonald would be at risk to lose his spot to a youngster like Tank Carradine or eventually even Lawrence Okoye, if he stays on the squad.
Odds of making the roster
I'd say McDonald is a virtual lock to make the roster after holding down the LDE spot for the past two years and being a nickel pass rusher prior to that. It would take a huge letdown in the preseason coupled with a stellar performance by one of the backups in order for a shocker like Ray being cut to happen.