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?
When I wrote my 90-in-90 post on San Francisco 49ers defensive end Tank Carradine, I talked a lot about Darnell Dockett, Tony Jerrod-Eddie, Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey ... but I spent very little time talking about Quinton Dial. That was something of an oversight, so I've decided to hit him next for this series of posts.
As you good folks know, the 49ers' defensive line is in flux and while we'll see primarily familiar faces next season, where everyone ends up and how frequent they'll play is still a big question mark. Williams and Dorsey should be competing for the starting spot at nose tackle, though I think the loser of that battle -- especially if it's Dorsey -- should get some playing time at end.
Dockett has the pedigree to come in and claim a starting spot, but I hardly think the 49ers will just hand him one. Suffice to say if he plays to the level he's been capable of playing at in the past, he'll be a mainstay at the left defensive end spot alongside either Ahmad Brooks or Aaron Lynch. At the other spot, it stands to reason Carradine, Jerrod-Eddie and Dial will compete for playing time.
Now, I'd like to add that I'm pretty sure the 49ers are going to be shifting things so much that both Carradine and Dial will see the field, with Dial taking more inside snaps than outside (I've always felt he was better-suited there, and filled in well when both Dorsey and Williams were injured in the past).
Dial, who is a really cool guy, as it happens, has received praise for his play inside from 49ers coaches, specifically Jim Tomsula. I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers consider him more of a nose tackle anyway, and Carradine is technically the "starter" at right defensive end. Dial played in 14 games last season, putting up 30 tackles and two sacks.
Dial received mixed grades from Pro Football Focus, particularly in run defense, though I disagree with some of them. For instance, I agree he had a great game against the Seattle Seahawks the second time, but I'd contest he struggled at all in his limited action against the New York Giants and in the first Seattle game. Whatever the case, he wound up seeing the field for 329 snaps last season.
It may be hard to peg where he'll end up, but a lot of that hinges on where Williams and Dorsey are in there rehab ... at this stage we still don't know much about where those guys are.
Why he might improve:
Dial has still only seen limited playing time. He's been getting plenty of work throughout the offseason and could be counted on to be a starter going forward. That's big, and I think Dial is a player who will rise to the occasion. Simply by playing more, I imagine he will improve. He's young, he's got a high ceiling and his position coach is the new head coach. Things are looking up for him.
Why he might regress:
If the 49ers see him as nothing more than a nose tackle, and Williams or Dorsey gets healthy, then Dial may not see the field at all. I still think he finds a way, but if he doesn't, that's certainly regression. He also wasn't perfect last season, and he was often better at creating penetration and hassling the quarterback than he was at stopping the run. With guys like Patrick Willis and Chris Borland gone, Dial failing to stop the running back could happen more and more.
Odds of making the roster:
I think Dial is 100 percent on the roster next season. He has value at every position along the defensive line and I'd consider him above average at nose tackle in particular. He's got more experience than some of the other guys and more upside to boot. He's with the 49ers next season, no question. Since Fooch is gone we're not going to really talk about aliens at this stage, because anything can happen while he's away.