Before I get started, let me preface this by saying I do not think Demarcus Dobbs and Justin Smith are on the same level. Justin Smith has been a consistent monster on the defense throughout his career, and has really stepped it up these last two seasons with the 49ers. Rather, I'm exemplifying the types of performances we often see with Justin Smith and turning that into a comparison. Just want to make that very clear.
The 49ers preseason has seen strong performances from youngsters like Kendall Hunter, Aldon Smith and even Kyle Williams. They've impressed coaches to the point that they're forcing their way into the discussion for more playing time once the season starts. When you compare that with an undrafted free agent like Demarcus Dobbs, though, you could argue Dobbs has had the most impressive preseason thus far.
Although Hunter is arguably the team's "preseason MVP" I would argue that considering Dobbs was playing for a chance to even make the roster, he has done more than anybody else to make a name for himself. He hasn't rolled up monster stats like Hunter, but over the course of four games he has made his presence known in multiple instances. He grabbed a sack against Oakland, a sack against Houston, and provided plenty of pressure against the Saints and Chargers.
I make the reference to beastly defensive end Justin Smith in part because his performance against the San Diego Chargers was the kind of performance that statistics don't show but we know exactly what we saw. While Justin Smith has his big games where he shows up in the stat book, he has plenty of games where he is getting consistent pressure that forces a readjusted throw or a dump-off and that does not appear in the playbook.
I'd argue Demarcus Dobbs has been providing those kinds of performances and his Chargers performance was a perfect example. He had no tackles, no sacks and did not appear to get credit for the Todman fumble, although the replay showed he may have gotten a hand on the ball. However, we saw him driving offensive lineman back with great ferocity. When Aldon Smith grabbed 1 1/2 of his sacks on a pair of plays, Dobbs was right behind him in the backfield.
Simply put, Demarcus Dobbs is a forceful presence on the field and I just can't picture a reason to not include him on the 53-man roster. Barrows did a 90-man roster review after the first preseason game and mentioned that Dobbs could use some size and strength. Since that first game, it seems like Dobbs has shown an ability to dominate his opponent.
One other argument is that he is not facing first string players when he plays. While this is true, he is getting in early enough to get reps against some solid second string players. He is showing a spark that is quite impressive and should be enough to warrant a roster spot at the very least.
There are no guarantees in the NFL, so it's entirely possible the 49ers do decide to cut Dobbs. I don't really know why exactly, but crazier things have happened. However, assuming Dobbs makes the roster, what kind of upside do you see for him? What is a realistic ceiling for him?