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?
The San Francisco 49ers have several quality defensive linemen, even with the retirement of Justin Smith. They have new addition Darnell Dockett, rookie Arik Armstead, a pair of capable nose tackles in Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey and then there's Tank Carradine.
I don't know how to feel about Carradine, who missed his rookie season due to injury -- an injury the 49ers knew about when they drafted him. But Carradine was healthy last season, and by all accounts wasn't necessarily behind as far as the playbook was concerned. Obviously, he had the highest ceiling of any 49ers defensive lineman, and I was excited to get some opportunities.
Unfortunately, that didn't really happen. Carradine wasn't the first backup onto the field in the rotation, nor was he even the second. Tony Jerod-Eddie played ahead of him, despite it being very obvious that Carradine had more potential. That lack of faith from the coaching staff has given me more pause on Carradine than anything. I suppose it's possible he was, in fact, struggling with the playbook or perhaps the 49ers just felt more comfortable with Jerod-Eddie due to his experience.
I'm not privy to that information, unfortunately. Going forward, I'm not sure what to expect from Carradine but it seems like he has moved ahead of Jerod-Eddie on the depth chart at this stage. I think it's safe to say Dockett will earn one of the starting spots and that Armstead is far too raw to see the field much as a rookie.
Does that mean Carradine will start? I suppose what happens at nose tackle is pertinent, as both Dorsey and Quinton Dial can play the end spot in certain packages. But I think, ultimately, it's looking more and more like Carradine will wind up getting an opportunity to start. (EDIT: Here, "opportunity" is key. As in the previous sentence, Dial is a factor, as is Dorsey, but Carradine will see the field more and in more important situations than he did previously, which is where the opportunity arises. If that wasn't clear, I apologize). I like Carradine's skillset, I like the potential he has at getting to the quarterback. Whether or not he can be a guy to eat up blockers for Aldon Smith is still up in the air, but I have liked what I've seen thus far.
Carradine has three sacks and 17 tackles in nine games last season. The three sacks is nice given his limited playing time, but he's still something of an unknown commodity at this stage. I'm actually optimistic, even if I think it's strange that a guy like Jerod-Eddie was favored over him at times last season.
Why he might improve:
Carradine will get an opportunity to get significant playing time, and he'll get that playing time lined up next to Aldon Smith. I think the two of them can do a lot to make the other one look real good, though I think if Carradine is having a great year, it's more by eating up blockers and less by getting to the quarterback. He'll play more, his defensive line coach is now the head coach and he's young. Obviously, he can improve fairly easily.
Why he might regress:
Maybe Carradine isn't all that. At this point, we haven't seen enough of him for poor play to constitute regression. He's basically a rookie given his lack of playing time last season, and if he plays poorly then that's not regression per se, just a guy not living up to his potential. I'm not sure that will be a concern this season, however.
Odds of making the roster:
Carradine, barring retirement or some kind of crazy off-field incident, will be on the roster next season. I don't think there's any reason to suggest his spot on the roster is in any danger. Unless, of course, you're going to bring aliens into the equation and then we're all just doomed.