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49ers defensive line: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2015 roster.

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2016, and it will take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was fairly quiet in free agency, but did plenty of work in the 2016 NFL Draft. Additionally, they will welcome back some injured players, and look to further develop young talent from the past few drafts.

With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.

We started with the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and offensive line, and today we move on to the defensive line.

Current 2015 preseason 2015 - Week 1 2015 - Week 17
Quinton Dial Darnell Dockett Glenn Dorsey Quinton Dial
Arik Armstead Ian Williams Ian Williams Ian Williams
DeForest Buckner Glenn Dorsey Quinton Dial Mike Purcell
Mike Purcell Tank Carradine Tank Carradine Tony Jerod-Eddie
Tony Jerod-Eddie Quinton Dial Mike Purcell Arik Armstead
Ronald Blair Tony Jerod-Eddie Tony Jerod-Eddie Tank Carradine
Kaleb Ramsey Lawrence Okoye Arik Armstead Kaleb Ramsey (PS)
Garrison Smith Mike Purcell Kaleb Ramsey (PS) Garrison Smith (PS)
Darren Lake Kaleb Ramsey Garrison Smith (PS) Glenn Dorsey (IR)
Demetrius Cherry Garrison Smith
Ian Williams (Inj) Arik Armstead
Glenn Dorsey (Inj)

The 49ers invested serious draft capital in the defensive line for the second straight season. The team selected DeForest Buckner in the first round, and Ronald Blair in the fifth round, and then signed Darren Lake and Demetrius Cherry as undrafted free agents. Buckner will be contributing at least in the nickel sub-package, if not more. Blair could play all along the line, and stands a decent chance of surpassing Tony Jerod-Eddie on the depth chart.

The big question for the line is injuries. They have a lot of young talent, but Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey are both still rehabbing injuries. Dorsey (torn ACL) seems to have a better shot at the Week 1 lineup, while Williams (ankle) is a big question mark after multiple offseason surgeries. If they are both back and healthy, I don’t think there is any doubt this line is better. But with injury questions, the depth takes a hit. The upside is this line still has some solid depth while waiting for those two to complete their rehab. I think it’s better compared to last year, but the injuries make it harder to say that with certainty.