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 spent this offseason reinforcing their defensive front, signing free agent Glenn Dorsey, and drafting defensive linemen Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald were work-horses along the line, but the team appears ready to implement a bit more of a rotation behind them. Dorsey and Carradine in particular could be key parts of that, but it has become easy to overlook Demarcus Dobbs.
The 49ers signed Demarcus Dobbs as an undrafted free agent in 2011 after the lockout ended. Dobbs joined fellow undrafted free agents Ian Williams and Scott Tolzien in earning roster spots. It marked the first time since 2001 that the 49ers had three undrafted free agents make the roster in a single season.
In his rookie season, Dobbs played primarily on special teams, with a little bit of defensive line mop-up duty in blowouts. Last year, his second season, Dobbs again focused primarily on special teams, spending much of the season leading the team in special teams snap count. He saw a few more defensive snaps, going from 35 in 2011 to 44 in 2012. Again, it was mostly mop-up duty. He also got in one snap as a tight end, as the team gave him a lot of training camp work at the position. Dobbs' season ended in December when he suffered what was reported as a partial tear of his MCL and PCL.
Here's a scouting report on Dobbs from NFL.com back in 2011:
Dobbs lacks explosion and doesn't possess prototypical size so he'll likely top-out as a reserve. Only profiles as a strongside 4-3 defensive end. Doesn't have the size to take car of the two-gap run responsibilities as a 3-4 defensive end and doesn't have the penetrating quickness of a 3-technique or the athletic ability to stand up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. However, Dobbs is a very hard-working player with good on-field awareness. Doesn't appear to have much room for additional bulk and could use some to hold up better at the point of attack. Dobbs' limitations make him a borderline seventh rounder.
At the start of 2012 training camp, Vic Fangio spoke briefly about Dobbs. He mentioned how Dobbs had done a good job improving his body. While Dobbs weighed in around the same as the previous year, Fangio indicated it was a different kind of weight. I imagine it had something to do with adding serious muscle, as opposed to just having a lot of bulk.
What to expect in 2013
Dobbs has done fairly well in the preseason, but it was never enough to work his way into any kind of rotation. If Dobbs makes the team in 2013, there is a good chance he will once again be a featured special teams player. Given that he has been unable to crack the defensive line rotation, I would be a bit surprised to see him get much more extensive work this year. He will benefit from Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial likely not being ready for training camp, but will that be enough for him to make a crack into the defensive line rotation?
I think there are plenty of us who would love to see this happen, but given the talent infusion with the likes of Dorsey and Carradine, time could be running out for Dobbs. Carradine will get plenty of opportunities at defensive end. While Dorsey will compete primarily at nose tackle, he has the kind of versatility that could get him on the field at times when the 49ers go to a four-man front. Previously, Ricky Jean Francois was the primary guy to rotate in. While he was a solid player, Carradine and Dorsey bring more to the table from a pure talent standpoint.
Odds of making the roster
This is a tough call primarily because of the infusion of defensive line talent. That being said, the 49ers are only holding on to three tight ends right now. If Dobbs can show some continued improvement in his tight end work, that combined with his special teams ability could very well be enough to put him over the top for a roster spot. Of course, the special teams coverage and return units had their share of struggles last season, so that very well could end up a ding against him.
I think Dobbs makes the roster, but it won't be easy. I would love to see him get some defensive line opportunities against first- and second-team offensive lines, but he has to earn that with his work in practice. Matt Barrows pre-training camp depth chart has Dobbs listed as part of the second string defensive line unit with Will Tukuafu. With Tank Carradine out early in camp, this could be the big chance for Dobbs to secure additional defensive line playing time. I think we'll see him on the roster, but that chance could swing in the balance through the first couple weeks of training camp.