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49ers roster, 90-in-90 breakdowns: Lawrence Okoye

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today we focus on defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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?

Things are relatively quiet today as the team has the day off from practice, so why not liven it up with a little Lawrence Okoye discussion?! The San Francisco 49ers signed the British Olympian following the 2013 NFL Draft as he was looking to transition his rare combination of athleticism and size into American football. His father had played some football, but Lawrence's achievements included Olympic discus thrower and rugby union player.

Okoye got on the field in his first preseason with the team, getting limited snaps during garbage time. Considering he had only just learned how to put on pads and his uniform a few months prior, I'd say that constituted a success. A knee injury later in the preseason ended up putting him on injured reserve for the year. A year later, he got more playing time in the preseason. He showed some improvement from the first preseason, but he still ended up as part of the final roster cuts. He cleared waivers and signed with the 49ers practice squad, where he spent the entire season.

Okoye heads into the 2015 season with plenty of question marks still remaining. He and Jim Tomsula have been connected at the hip for much of the last two years. While Tomsula will be focused on his work as a head coach, I imagine he might still find a little time to work with Okoye.

Why he might improve:

He entered the NFL a veritable blank canvas with nowhere to go but up. He showed improvement from year one to year two, so it is not unreasonable to be optimistic about how he might grow in year three. Of course, improvement for a guy like Okoye does not guarantee he ends up on the 53-man roster. And that also means he could improve, but could still be disappointing. He's not totally unique in his development situation, but it is not a regular evaluation.

Why he might regress:

It is entirely possible he just does not make the complete transition to the NFL. I don't think this is a likely scenario because he does seem to be slowly starting to get it. But even if he does not regress, this still might not work out.

Odds of making the roster:

I would guess his chances are fairly slim. He still has practice squad eligibility, so I would not be surprised if the 49ers decided to try and stash him there for one more year. I also do not have a lot to base that opinion on given that he has an IR year and a practice squad year under his belt. It is hard to tell what he might bring to the table since we just don't know much about where he is at in his development.

The 49ers defensive line depth chart includes:

Darnell Dockett
Glenn Dorsey
Ian Williams
Quinton Dial
Tank Carradine
Tony Jerod-Eddie
Arik Armstead
Mike Purcell
Kaleb Ramsey
Garrison Smith

At this point, Dockett, Dorsey, Williams, Dial, Carradine and Armstead all seem like locks to make the roster. Tony Jerod-Eddie has plenty of experience, but the increase in young additions to the line puts him a little bit more on the bubble. One of the intriguing guys is Ramsey, who spent last season on the PUP list. He is talented, but injury prone. If he is healthy through training camp, he very well could work his way into a reserve spot.

A year ago, the 49ers kept eight players on the 53-man roster coming out of training camp. It is worth noting that included Glenn Dorsey, who was subsequently placed on injured reserve with a return designation. If those first six players mentioned above are locks, that leaves one or two spots. Mike Purcell got some time late in the season after 14 weeks on the practice squad.

That means Purcell, Ramsey, Jerod-Eddie, Smith and Okoye are likely competing for no more than two roster spots. A strong development from last year to this year would certainly be helpful, but he faces tough competition for what would be one of the final few roster spots.