The San Francisco 49ers are 19 days from their first training camp practice which means we'll start to get a better handle on who will rise and who will fall in the competition for roster spots. To prepare for training camp, we're going to go through a bubble watch of the entire roster. The plan will be to go position-by-position, and then compile it into our first bubble watch of training camp.
We continue our run through the positional depth charts, with a look at the defensive line. Thus far this week, we've been able to take a look at the quarterbacks, the running backs, the fullbacks, the wide receivers, and the offensive line. We'll get to the tight ends in the coming days, but since we had a Vernon post yesterday, I figured we'd give it a little breather. And so, today, we move to the other side of the ball. The veterans will report on July 23, and the rookies will report on July 16.
Locks: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, Tank Carradine
Strong Bubble: Ian Williams, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Demarcus Dobbs, Quinton Dial
Weak Bubble: None
Longshot: Lawrence Okoye, Kaleb Ramsey, Mike Purcell
The 49ers defensive line finally got some real depth last season, as Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs were able to provide legitimate relief for Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. This year, the team adds Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial to the mix. Dial got some work late last season, but it was not a whole lot of much after missing the offseason and the first six weeks of the regular season recovering from a turf toe injury. Tank was activated midway through the season, but he ended up on injured reserve.
Dobbs and TJE are a tough pair to figure out. At least one of them is making the 53-man roster, and we very well could see both make the team. And yet, given the additional depth of Tank and Dial, it's not as clear cut as it would otherwise be. I'd say TJE has the slight edge, but Dobbs's special teams contributions help his cause.
Ian Williams is a tough one to figure out following last year's ankle injury. He is hoping to be ready in time for the start of training camp, but his language made it seem more like maybe than definitely. I could see him opening camp on the PUP list, but even if he is 100 percent ready to go for the start of training camp, he faces a bit of an uphill climb. The team obviously likes him, having given him a moderate contract extension last year. The problem of course is that Glenn Dorsey was a strong replacement for him, and Dorsey has a bit more flexibility along the line. Dorsey is also more expensive, so that certainly goes in Williams's flavor. I think both end up making the team, but money and the numbers game could make for a tough decision.
The three long-shots are all potential practice squad candidates. The 49ers invested a seventh round draft pick in Ramsey, while Okoye and Purcell were undrafted free agents. Ramsey dealt with numerous injuries during his college career, so he'll first have to make it through training camp in one piece. But if he does, I hope the 49ers are able to find a spot for him on the practice squad. He's a little older than most draft picks, but he's a talented defensive lineman. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are not exactly spring chickens. Smith probably only has a year or two left with the 49ers, and McDonald might not be far behind him. Tank Carradine is one long term option. The question will be who else works themselves into the mix with some kind of consistency.