The San Francisco 49ers invested multiple 2013 draft picks in players coming off notable injuries. They were content to red-shirt second round pick Tank Carradine, fourth round pick Marcus Lattimore, and UDFA Luke Marquardt. The 49ers have another 11 (soon to be 12) draft picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, but they will head into the coming season with players who got a chance to learn about the NFL without actually playing a down in 2013.
Last month, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media at the NFL Combine, and he had a chance to address the status of the various injured players. When speaking about Tank Carradine, he mentioned that the defensive lineman had a follow-up surgery to clear out some scar tissue. Tank had surgery in 2012 for a torn ACL, but there were questions about if he rushed back to prepare for the draft. He was activated off the NFI list, but was inactive and then eventually placed on injured reserve. The surgery after the season clarified that situation a little bit.
Tank spoke with 95.7 The Game on Friday, and he provided an update on his status. He indicated that he had the surgery at the beginning of February, and he said his knee felt as good as new:
I'm over the injury. when the injury happened, it's been over a year and four months since the injury. Recently I had another surgery where they scoped my knee. Took some scar tissue and fluid, but I always felt I was ready and healed. But there was a little scar tissue that they took out, which makes me feel 100 percent now. Back then I felt like I was 100 percent, but I could feel my right knee felt good, but when I got out there to run, it didn't feel like the other knee. But once they went in there and took out the scar tissue and fluid, both of my knees feel the same. I'm good to go, ready to go, and it feels like I haven't been hurt before.
He followed that up by saying he had full range of motion, and could bend his leg properly. He says there is no stiffness and no pain at this point.
Coming out of college, Tank weighed in at 276 lbs at the 2013 NFL Combine. He said that after a season with the 49ers, he now weighs in at 295 lbs. Even with the additional weight, he still feels like he can be a speed rusher like he was in college. He views himself as a guy who can play either the right or left side. My favorite part was when he was asked who he compared to stylistically. Greg Papa referenced Justin Tuck and Tank concurred with that assessment. He then said that because he was now bigger, he might look at it more as a combination of Tuck and Warren Sapp.
I always enjoy when players are asked for comparisons. They always pick great players, which is to be expected. But it reminds me of people talking about reincarnation and how they were such and such famous person in a former life. Nobody is never just some random person. It's not a big deal, but just amusing to consider.
What isn't amusing for opposing teams is that Tank is apparently going to be a monster of a man in 2014. He was already a big guy at 276, but now he's got 10 pounds on Justin Smith. If Tank can retain his speed at that weight, that's pretty crazy.
Tank mentioned he spent his time in the 4-3 at Florida State, but feels there are some benefits to moving to a 3-4. As a 3-4 end he can get more cracks at the guard. He might deal with more double teams going inside instead of outside, but when he does get one-on-one opportunities, he feels his speed gives him a big advantage. Imagine rolling Tank out in place of Justin Smith once in a while, and having Aldon Smith over his shoulder. Justin Smith is a power guy who will outwork the opposing offensive lineman. I think Tank will be able to use strength as well, but if he can bring that speed with teams also having to deal with Aldon, they could bring a host of problems for opposing offenses.
For now though, we have to wait and see what the offseason workout program and then training camp bring. Tank said he's feeling 100 percent, but much like Marcus Lattimore, I suspect they will be brought along slowly early in the offseason workout program. Ideally it won't be a big issue, particularly given that the program starts with a couple weeks of basic conditioning and strength work.
On Friday, word came out that the 49ers had tendered defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs. That means the team will likely return him along with Tony Jerod-Eddie. Add in Quinton Dial, and the return of a healthy Ian Williams, and you've got a ton of depth along the line.
After the Dobbs news, some folks mentioned that this could be a sign the team was not completely confident about Tank's return from injury. While that is certainly one reason, I also think the 49ers might look at what the Seattle Seahawks did this past season with their own defensive line depth. By the end of free agency and the draft, Seattle had crazy depth along the line. They dealt with various injuries, as well as a suspension for Bruce Irvin, which made that depth all the more important. The 49ers did a solid job rotating in TJE and Dobbs behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. A little more depth is not necessarily a bad thing.