The San Francisco 49ers didn't use a nose tackle too much in 2012. It just wasn't an important position then, nor was it a must-have last season. But Glenn Dorsey really stepped up his game in 2013, and Ian Williams was well on his way to doing the same when he went down with an injury. Now Williams is just coming back from said injury while Dorsey is set to miss a large chunk of the regular season.
Whatever the case, it's nice and all that Quinton Dial has been playing well in the preseason, but Williams' return is big news. He was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 12. When asked about Williams on Friday, head coach Jim Harbaugh said that he looks better than he did before sustaining his injury.
Keep in mind that Williams beat Dorsey for the starting job last season. Harbaugh said that Williams looks good in his "movement, in the quickness, the burst of separation, driving to the ball," and that he "looks better than before." Before that, he said that Williams looked good "right from the beginning, right from the first day he was out there."
Obviously, Harbaugh wasn't going to come out and say that Williams looks like garbage and that he's terrified of how the position is going to look, but it's good to hear such positive statements regardless. Getting into specifics about Williams looking better than he did before his injury is good to hear, and makes sense given that he's still a young player learning the way of the NFL. He surely spent the offseason studying the playbook and working on what conditioning he could.
Williams' injuries were the result of a dirty play, and the surgeries (yes, multiple) were complicated. He had four surgeries since sustaining the broken fibula and the torn ligaments, so there's always been a little pessimism regarding what he'd look like upon his return. Let's hope Harbaugh is right and Williams returns to and exceeds his early-2013 form.