Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
The primary utility guys on the San Francisco 49ers 2013 defensive line were Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs. Heading into last season, Dobbs seemed like the primary backup, while I figured Jerod-Eddie was potentially looking at another year on the practice squad. Jerod-Eddie spent 16 weeks on the practice squad in 2012, before getting activated for the final game of the regular season.
A season later, TJE took the same step foward that several current 49ers have done. He went from undrafted free agent to practice squad to role player. Although both TJE and Dobbs rotated in, TJE seemed to leap-frog Dobbs on the depth chart. TJE even scored a pair of starts on the defensive line Weeks 11 and 12 following a Ray McDonald ankle sprain.
Over the course of the season, TJE notched 55 total tackles according to the 49ers, and 28 total tackles according to NFL.com's numbers. Believe who you want! But either way, he was a solid rotational guy. This was the first year the team really felt comfortable replacing Justin Smith and Ray McDonald for more than just emergencies. In 2011 and 2012, Fangio had no interest in subbing them out, and they ended up with monster snap counts. In 2013, TJE and Dobbs gave the 49ers significant opportunities to get both Smith and McDonald some rest.
Why he might improve:
He showed he could do solid work last season, earning the trust both of the coaching staff, and of Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. That could lead to additional opportunities. His best chance at improving is if the team continues the momentum of boosting the rotation behind Smith and McDonald. There could be more opportunities to be had.
Why he might regress:
The "problem", if you can call it that, is the fact that Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are both getting added to the mix. If Carradine and Dial are 100%, they will push for playing time. I don't think TJE regresses from an ability standpoint. Rather, it could just happen due to the numbers game that is developing along the line.
Odds of making the roster:
After last year, I'd say his chances are very good. Even with Carradine and Dial coming back, I don't think the 49ers would be comfortable rolling with those two as their backups on their own. Even if this turned into a TJE vs. Dobbs roster battle, TJE would seemingly have the edge. Dobbs has gotten a lot more special teams work than TJE, but I'm not sure that would be enough. I don't think TJE is necessarily a 100% lock, but his odds are pretty good.