The San Francisco 49ers defense has been rotating DeForest Buckner and Mike Purcell into the 3-4 base defense over the first week of camp. Buckner spent OTAs and minicamp playing with the third string defense, but slowly worked his way up the board. Purcell has been getting first team nose tackle reps for some time now with Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey sidelined (and Dorsey just starting to return).
We won’t see any opponent scheming on Sunday, but we might start to see some of the rotations the team will use in the base and sub packages. The defensive line will be one to track as the 49ers figure out who fits best in run and pass situations. When Buckner has been in the lineup, Quinton Dial has been the nose tackle. When Purcell has been in the lineup, Dial has moved outside, with Arik Armstead manning the other defensive end position in both instances.
There is some thought that the 49ers might roll out an Armstead-Dial-Buckner base defense against pass-heavy teams, and an Armstead-Purcell-Dial base defense against more run-heavy teams. Preseason games won’t tell us a whole lot about the regular season rotation plans, but it will be interesting to see if the 49ers use both those defensive lines with any sort of regularity in August. The defensive line is one of the deeper position units on the roster. We’ll see if 49ers defensive staff actually uses that group to their advantge.