Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
I'm well-known among San Francisco 49ers fans for having been totally against the signing of safety Craig Dahl in the first place, and I'm well-known for exaggerating his negative impact on the defense when he plays. Truthfully, the 49ers are always in bad shape if either Eric Reid or Antoine Bethea gets hurt, but having watched him blow plays in multiple games for the St. Louis Rams, I was not ready to accept that signing at all.
To his credit, Dahl made it hard to dislike him last season. That is to say, he filled in as a backup and was generally decent at doing it. Well ... I didn't really notice him all that much, which is a massive step up. There was that Week 17 game in which he went off and had 10 tackles and an interception, which was the most bizarre way for the 49ers to close out the season.
Oh God. We should have seen it coming. That game ... Dahl's performance ... Jim Harbaugh's ousting ... we were so blind! So very blind!
Woah sorry, not really sure what happened there. Anyway, I thought Dahl looked fine in extended action against the New York Giants, and decent in his few snaps against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara. Where the proverbial poo hit the proverbial fan: Dahl's first game as a full-time player on defense.
Against the San Diego Chargers in Week 16, Dahl played 74 of 85 defensive snaps and he was abysmal. Pro Football Focus gave him a -3.5 overall, a -0.8 rating for run defense and a -2.7 in pass coverage. I think they're being awfully generous with those ratings. Every thing that went wrong in that game was directly a result of Craig Dahl being born. Dahl was a pizza burn on the roof of San Francisco's mouth that day.
So I don't know. The 49ers drafted Jaquiski Tartt but at this point, Dahl's roster spot is pretty safe. He'll be the primary backup again next season, and he'll likely be a pretty decent special teams player, as he was last season.
Why he might improve:
Dahl finished last season on a very high note, we shouldn't forget that. He had one of the worst games of his career followed by the best game of his career so ... who the heck knows? I'm still not comfortable with Reid given his concussion history, and that means Dahl could see the field for a significant portion of the time next season. If that happens, we could certainly see Dahl grasping the new defense and building on his progress made in Week 17. Or at least, we can tell ourselves that's a possibility.
Why he might regress:
He's Craig Dahl. But again, using the Reid explanation, Dahl could find himself getting significant playing time. Last season, he had two games in which he was basically a starter, and one was awful while the other was great. Given more opportunities to do that, there are plenty of opportunities for him to mess things up on a grander scale. He's also learning a new defensive scheme and is a year older. The means for regression are there, if we're being serious.
Odds of making the roster:
I don't think the 49ers have done anything to make me think Dahl's roster spot could be in danger. He'll be the primary backup safety, and I think the 49ers value his contributions on special teams as well. There's no way he doesn't make it. I'll let you guys decide on your own as to whether or not that's a good thing.