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 you get the idea.
The San Francisco 49ers made some significant moves this offseason to add serious depth to the defensive line. Prior to the new league year, they signed recently released defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. In April, they spent a first round pick on Solomon Thomas, and a sixth round pick on D.J. Jones. Thomas and Mitchell will be plenty busy, and Jones is likely going to compete early on for some interior line opportunities.
The 49ers will continue turning over their roster, but they do have some intriguing options competing for line work. Quinton Dial is the more high profile player, but Chris Jones should also get serious consideration.
The 49ers claimed Jones off waivers from the Miami Dolphins on November 8, 2016. They made the move when they placed Arik Armstead on injured reserve with his shoulder injury. Jones was originally a sixth round pick of the Houston Texans in 2013. Most notably, Jones spent three seasons (one on injured reserve) with the New England Patriots, where he appeared in 28 games and made 23 starts. The Patriots waived him in April 2016, and he was claimed by the Miami Dolphins. He was released in final roster cuts before re-signing in September. He played in seven games with the Dolphins before being waived and then claimed by the 49ers.
Jones was inactive his first two games with the 49ers, but started the final six. In those six games, he had an 8.9 percent run stop rate, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranked No. 18 out of 75 qualifying defensive tackles. If you add in his time with the Dolphins, his total run stop rate was 8.1 percent and ranked No. 25. He had the sixth most run stops from Week 12 through 17 among defensive tackles. He had four quarterback pressures in 74 pass rush snaps. If he would have had enough snaps to qualify, his 4.1 Pass Rush Productivity would've ranked tied for No. 45 out of 69 qualifying defensive tackles.
Age: 26 (27 on July 12)
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Weight: 295 lbs
Signed one-year, $775,000 contract with a $50,000 signing bonus.
Why he might improve in 2017
We saw some solid play from Jones last season, and let’s not forget he had six sacks in 13 games as a rookie with the Patriots. He’s a guy who has flashed talent in the past. He missed all of 2015 with a torn calf, so last year was his first time on the field since the end of the 2014 season. There is room to build, and that bodes well for him.
Why he might regress in 2017
I think it’s less about talent decreasing, and more about what kind of opportunities he might have. This factors as much into the next section, but if he does make the roster, his role could end up fairly limited.
Odds of making the roster
The 49ers will probably keep around eight defensive linemen next year. You’ve got DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, and Earl Mitchell likely locked into place. Aaron Lynch is moving into a purely defensive end role, which would likely be a fifth body. That leaves three or so roster spots for some combination of Jones, Quinton Dial, Ronald Blair, D.J. Jones, Tank Carradine, Pita Taumoepenu, and Noble Nwachukwu.
Considering Mitchell will play exclusively inside, and Buckner, Armstead, and Thomas all can play on the interior, there are not going to be a lot of options for defensive tackles. I’m curious to see if Jones and Dial end up competing for one roster spot. I think Jones is somewhere between strong and weak bubble for the moment. I’d lean weak bubble, but I’m not going to write him off yet.