The San Francisco 49ers continue to run their OTAs without nose tackle Ian Williams participating in on-field work. Williams suffered a broken ankle last season and has had four surgeries since the injury. Williams said his goal was to be 100 percent for the start of training camp.
Williams spoke with media after practice, and during the session he mentioned that his most recent was in February to have a plate removed from his leg. He did not go into more about the surgeries, but he did provide some graphic details about the injury. He talked about how he fractured a bone low on his fibula, but the bigger issue was torn ligaments that "left his foot 'dangling' off his lowerl leg" after the injury. I don't think we need to see any specific video of that.
The injury sounds pretty nasty, and naturally that has left some folks wary about his impact this year. It's hard to tell exactly what to expect out of Williams. Some will take that to mean we should expect nothing, others figure we can take him at his word that he'll be back for training camp. As is often the case, I'll settle somewhere in the middle. I hope he's ready for camp, but it would not be entirely shocking if he opened camp on the PUP list.
I don't necessarily expect that to last through the length of camp, but the team could take their time getting him back to 100 percent. He made a great point in his discussion with the media. His nose tackle role often requires that he occupy two bodies at the line of scrimmage. He's looking 600-700 pounds of offensive linemen he has to help clear to open room for the linebackers. You kind of want your lower body at 100 percent to get the necessary leverage.
The good news for the 49ers is that they can take their time with Williams. He was doing solid work last preseason at nose tackle, and the depth would be greatly welcomed. At the same time, they know that Glenn Dorsey can handle the role. He stepped in and did great work after Williams went down, and there's no reason to think he could not do so again.
Behind Dorsey, Mike Purcell, and potentially Quinton Dial could get some work in the preseason. Dial has been described as a 5-technique guy, but he sounds like a guy who could get some opportunities all across the line. Given the depth on this team, Dial will need to show some versatility to ensure his roster spot.
And of course, it's worth noting the 49ers don't exactly need a nose tackle every down. They spent most of their time in nickel and dime defenses, which means less work for the nose tackle. Williams can play defensive tackle, but Dorsey seems more likely to get that kind of work when the base defense is not in the game. All of these factors contribute to giving the 49ers reasons to make sure Williams's ankle really is 100 percent.