The San Francisco 49ers are into day two of minicamp, and Jim Harbaugh provided some news on defensive tackle Justin Smith. The 49ers star defensive lineman is not taking part in practice because he is "working through something." Harbaugh would not go into detail, but he did say the team expects Smith to be good to go when training camp gets here.
Smith's absence means Tank Carradine gets bumped up the depth chart. At Tuesday's practice, he was getting work along the interior of the line when the defense was in nickel. It was the same role Smith has worked the last few years. Vic Fangio pointed out that Tank has a long way to go, and is essentially a rookie this year given last year's absence. Nonetheless, if he is back to full health, that is huge. Tank had to undergo a procedure on his knee to clear out some scar tissue, and he has said that drastically improved his flexibility and strength.
As the 49ers get ready for the 2014 season, they have considerable depth along the line. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald start on the outside in the base defense, and then move inside in the nickel. The team has Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs back competing for more opportunities a year after they got extensive behind Smith and McDonald. Glenn Dorsey can play the Smith or McDonald role if needed, and they team also added Kaleb Ramsey in the draft. The Ramsey pick was a bit of a flier, but he'll get a chance to compete for a backup role. And we all know and love Lawrence Okoye!
Whatever players claim roles behind Smith and McDonald, I'd imagine we'll see them get plenty of work. In 2013, we saw TJE and Dobbs get extensive work as the team tried to rest Smith and McDonald. We'll see something similar, and it could be even more rotation with another year passing for Smith and McDonald.