San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula is at the NFL owners meetings, and had a chance to meet with the media at Wednesday's NFC coaches' breakfast. Naturally, local media swarmed to get his thoughts on a variety of topics. Since his initial press conference, Tomsula's most notable media session was at the NFL Combine. His next will likely take place after the 49ers make their first draft pick in April.
Tomsula had a chance to address his bread and butter, the defensive line. He believes the team's current line depth is as good as it has ever been. The 49ers released Ray McDonald, and may still lose Justin Smith to retirement. However, if Smith returns, their short term depth is really quite solid. The team signed Darnell Dockett, and will be looking to have a healthy Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams this season. Additionally, Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine both received a lot more work, Dial in particular. There are question marks for the future, but in terms of guys with experience, the line has some upside in the short term.
Tomsula specifically spoke about Tank Carradine's development. He talked about how Tank came into the NFL dealing with a significant knee injury, and also making a position change. As Tomsula put it, Tank played in more wide-9 at Florida State, and is now moving further inside, having often played outside the tight end, but now in between the tackle and guard.
"The analogy I'd use is Tank came from the backyard to a phone booth," Tomsula said. "When you're out there on the edge, you got all that space. There's nobody outside as a blocking threat. Now you scoot down inside, you got stuff coming from both sides. The amount of space you're working in is a lot smaller."
Tomsula did say the team was still planning on sticking with a 3-4, which means Tank would likely continue in the role he has been learning and practicing at over the last two years. If Justin Smith retires, it opens the door for more opportunities for Tank and Dial. Even if Smith returns, Dockett is not necessarily a guy who will be playing every down. There will be plenty of opportunities for Dial, Tank, and Tony Jerod-Eddie, among others.