The San Francisco 49ers have been ravaged by injuries, and while that has decimated their depth, it has opened the door for opportunities. We have seen numerous young players take advantage of opportunities this season, but we have also seen some veterans step up. The most notable might be defensive end Leger Douzable.
The 49ers defensive line was viewed as a strength coming into the season. It was anchored by DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, with Solomon Thomas looked to as another long-term piece. However, injuries have struck there as much as almost anywhere else, and the team has had to bring in some free agents to shore up the depth.
Douzable first joined the 49ers in mid-August, signing on August 14 to provide some depth because of various injuries. He was cut on September 1, but when injuries piled up again, he was signed back on October 17. Since then, he has made four starts at defensive end, and been right up there with DeForest Buckner in his place.
Buckner is a presence against both the run and the pass, while Douzable is primarily a run guy. However, in his run snaps, Douzable has been one of the best in the league. I checked some Pro Football Focus numbers, and they rank him No. 3 among 61 4-3 defensive ends in run stop percentage. He does not have enough pass rush snaps to qualify in those categories, and that drags down his overall grades. But as a run stopper, he’s quietly been among the best in the league.
The question now is what happens after the bye. Tank Carradine is expected to be activated off injured reserve, and Solomon Thomas is expected back from his MCL sprain. Ronald Blair has been the starter at defensive end opposite Douzable, but with Carradine and Thomas coming back, there will need to be some shuffling. Does Douzable retain his base down snaps? Do we see some rotation?
I suppose they could choose to release Douzable. He is 31, and likely not part of the 49ers long-term plan — or is he? Over 30 is getting over the hill for many NFL players, but could the 49ers try and extend him on a modest deal as a depth option? This presumes he wants to stick around and not take what he has done and parlay that into a starting opportunity elsewhere. The 49ers have a lot of decisions to make heading into the offseason, particularly with Tank Carradine hitting free agency. What do they do with Douzable?