clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

San Francisco 49ers 2013 roster review: Defensive Line

The 2014 offseason is officially underway for the 49ers. Before we get into 2014 preview content, we'll review each of the 49ers position units. We'll break down how they performed in 2013, and their roster status for 2014. We move on to the defensive line.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 season is a wrap for the San Francisco 49ers, but before we take the deep dive into free agency and look ahead to 2014, we're going to take an initial look at that season that was for each position group. We moved over to the defensive side of the ball this week, and today we wrap it up with the defensive line.

The 49ers defensive front is one of the toughest in the NFL. They put together another solid season in 2013, and are in excellent shape heading into the 2014 season. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have been stalwarts on the line since Jim Harbaugh came to town, and the 49ers developed a pair of nose tackles this season. Furthermore, the team will be welcoming Tank Carradine into the mix in 2014. Defensive line depth is pretty impressive at this point.

Justin Smith - 16 games | 49 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble | PFF: 13.2, -1.1 run D, 12.9 pass rush, 0.5 pass D, 0.9 penalty | Pass Rush Productivity: 9.5 (4th), Run stop %: 8.3 (9th)
2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base: $3,150,000; Cap: $6,936,666

Ray McDonald - 14 games | 37 tackles, 3.5 sacks | PFF: 7.7, 8.4 run D, -1.4 pass rush, 0.5 pass D, 0.2 penalty | Pass Rush Productivity: 6.0 (14th), Run stop %: 7.0 (13th)
2014 status: Signed through 2016 | Base: $3,500,000; Cap: $5,346,985

The key for the 49ers defensive front this year was developing a rotation. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald remains the primary defensive ends in the 3-4, and the primary defensive tackles in the nickel, but both got more rest than in recent years. Smith played 73 percent of snaps, while McDonald played 60 percent of defensive snaps (he missed two games with an ankle injury). This came a year after Smith played 77 percent of defensive snaps (even while missing 2 1/2 games with his triceps injury), and McDonald played 90 percent of total defensive snaps.

Both put together very solid 2013 seasons, even if neither had a season of highlight worthy plays. And yet they were still both impact players. 3-4 defensive lineman don't put up huge stats, but they were keys to opening up space for the outside linebackers to make plays.

They will return to their starting roles in 2014, with more depth behind them. We could very well see Smith and McDonald get even more rest in 2014 with Tank Carradine added to the mix. Demarcus Dobbs could depart, but considering Carradine is a prospect for long-term starting time, I suspect he'll work his way into the rotation right away.

Glenn Dorsey - 16 games | 41 tackles, 2.0 sacks | PFF: 10.1, 12.6 run D, -4.0 pass rush, 1.5 penalty | Run stop %: 10.4 (5th)
2014 status: Signed through 2014 | Base: $2,300,000; Cap: $3,792,500

Ian Williams - 2 games | 1 tackle
2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base: $950,000; Cap: $1,283,333

The 49ers entered the 2013 season with Ian Williams No. 1 on the nose tackle depth chart, and Glenn Dorsey No. 2. Williams had a strong training camp and looked ready to develop into the 49ers nose tackle of the future. He did not "start" Week 1 because the 49ers went primarily with their nickel against the Packers. In his first official start the next week against Seattle, Williams broke his ankle on a cut block by Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy.

Dorsey replaced Williams in the starting lineup, and proceeded to kick much butt. The 49ers signed Dorsey to a 2-year deal with the plan for him to be the primary backup all along the line. He moved into the starting lineup after Williams' injury and was a force, particularly against the run.

This training camp battle will be really interesting to watch. Dorsey earned a continued starting role, but he strikes me as more versatile than Williams. If Williams were moved back into the nose tackle role, suddenly you've got Dorsey, Carradine and Tony Jerod-Eddie all available to rotate in with Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. That is some crazy depth.

Tony Jerod-Eddie - 15 games | 28 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception | PFF: -0.4, -2.0 run D, -3.0 pass rush, 3.0 pass D, 1.6 penalty
2014 status: Signed through 2014 | Base/Cap: $495,000

Demarcus Dobbs - 15 games | 14 tackles | PFF: -4.0, -2.0 run D, -2.4 pass rush, 0.4 penalty
2014 status: Restricted free agent

TJE and Dobbs put together some very solid work in 2013. The injury to Ian Williams opened the door for both of them as Glenn Dorsey was no longer that primary "swing" defensive tackle. Jerod-Eddie became the primary backup, with Dobbs receiving a solid amount of playing time as well. Neither exactly blew our socks off, but for young players rotating in, they did very solid work. Vic Fangio was clearly comfortable giving them more playing time, and taking Justin Smith and Ray McDonald off the field. That along tells us most of what we need to know.

Dobbs enters the offseason as a restricted free agent, but it seems unlikely that the 49ers would tender him. I suppose the 49ers could try and bring him back for closer to the veteran's minimum, but with Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial expected on the field in 2014, along with the return of Ian Williams, there is not a lot of space for Dobbs. Right now I don't expect him back, but for a minimum deal, he could always end up back in camp to compete for an opportunity.

Tank Carradine - 8 games NFI, 5 games inactive, 3 games IR
2014 status: Signed through 2016 | Base: $579,895; Cap: $1,124,473

Quinton Dial - 6 games NFI, 4 games active, 6 games inactive
2014 status: Signed through 2016 | Base: $495,000; Cap: $540,413

While Tank never made it to the field in his rookie season, Dial did manage a few games. Both will be in the thick of the offseason workout program in 2014, and will be competing for substantial roles this coming season. Tank will be in the mix with Tony Jerod-Eddie, and potentially Glenn Dorsey for time as part of the backup defensive line rotation. He also has the talents to get mixed in when the team goes to the nickel.

Dial is a tough one to figure out. He strikes me as best suited in the 3-4, and more as a nose tackle than anything else. The return of Ian Williams and the emergence of Glenn Dorsey makes for a pretty deep group at nose tackle. The competition will be tough, so we'll see if Dial can prove himself worthy of moving out to the end positions at times.

Lawrence Okoye - Injured Reserve
2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base: $420,000; Cap: $421,000

Mike Purcell - Practice Squad
2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base/Cap: $420,000

Okoye spent this past season on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury during the preseason. If he was a normal football player, I imagine the injury would not have cost him the entire season. But considering he had such a small chance of making the roster his rookie season, it was not surprising the team used the injury report accordingly.

Okoye is basically a long-shot lottery ticket who gets a full offseason of learning how to be a defensive lineman. Jim Tomsula returns for another year as the 49ers defensive line coach, so it's safe to safe Okoye will be spending a whole lot of time with him when the offseason workout program begins.