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.
When Dashon Goldson left via free agency, everyone wondered who would be his replacement. Charles Woodson perhaps? Louis Delmas maybe? How about Laron Landry? None of the above in free agency put pen to paper for the 49ers. Rams safety Craig Dahl did however, and panic ensued in the 49ers fan base! Many were worried that Dahl would be Goldson's heir apparent, but in reality, Dahl was signed to be a special teams player and the third free safety on the depth chart. The 49ers drafted Eric Reid in the first round of this year's draft, and that quelled concerns as to who will be starting at free safety, it'll be the rookie.
While I'm not sure if Dahl is 49ers material, I do respect the resiliency he's shown in his career. Dahl never heard his name called during the NFL draft, but signed as a free agent with the Giants. Then he tore his ACL in 2007 and 2008, was cut by the Giants before being re-signed by them in 2008. In 2009, Dahl landed with the Rams, where he made 40 starts in his time there. Tearing an ACL twice, being an undrafted free agent, the chips have always been against Dahl, and he keeps proving people wrong. Now what he has to prove is he can become a better caliber player at this level.
Dahl made an impact immediately without even setting foot on a practice field. He claimed that the 49ers were tipping some of their plays against the Rams last season. Which makes sense, the Rams played the 49ers tough, winning one, and tying the other tilt. Dahl said that the Rams were able to figure out (guess right) on which plays were going to be pass or run. The issue has been corrected according to Dahl, thanks Craig! This could be Dahl's biggest contribution to the 49ers, or he could surprise us all with solid play in 2013.
How he could improve in 2013:
Dahl's biggest weakness is tackling fundamentals. The 49ers defense doesn't produce bad tackling players, and lackluster performance in this aspect of the game isn't tolerated by the defensive coaching staff. I expect Dahl to improve as a tackler, you will see less players get past him, and as a special teams player he will have to wrap up. In 2012, Dahl had 16 missed tackles, which was tied for fifth most in the NFL.
Although Eric Reid will ultimately be the starting free safety, Dahl may see some snaps at the position to spell Reid throughout the season. When Dahl does take the field in 2013, he will have to improve his coverage skills. Pro Football Focus graded Dahl as the fourth worst starting safety last season.
How he could regress in 2013:
Dahl could regress from a lack of playing time. Sure, he'll get his special teams work in, but the rest of his game could become a little rusty. Going from a full time starter to a backup is never an easy thing to do, no matter how many practices you have, it won't replicate the game speed on Sunday's. I already noted above his rankings on Pro Football Focus, so there really isn't much regression to be made here, the only way Dahl can go is up. Right?
Odds OF Making The Roster:
I'd say the odds are hovering around 50%. He has a lot of starting experience under his belt and is very familiar with the NFC West, but it boils down to production, and can he be a contributor? Trenton Robinson has a say in this as well if he has a great preseason. Dahl will have to earn his way onto the team, and the 49ers will have no reservations in cutting him if Robinson performs better. Dahl has already been an asset to the 49ers, as he helped them solve the problem of tipping plays to the opposing team. The 49ers could end up saying "thanks for the information, but if you could give us back the playbook, that'd be great." What could save Dahl is his special teams experience. After last season's disappointing version of the "Tony Montana Squad", the 49ers need sound special teamers.
What do you think will be Dahl's fate?