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49ers 90-in-90: DT Sheldon Day

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is defensive tackle Sheldon Day.

The San Francisco 49ers went through defensive linemen with quite a bit of regularity this past season. DeForest Buckner and Earl Mitchell stuck around the entire season, while players like Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, Solomon Thomas, Tony McDaniel, and Datone Jones, among others, rotated in and out of the roster. Injuries cost some of them, and better options led to other changes.

One of my favorite additions during the season was defensive tackle Sheldon Day. The Jacksonville Jaguars waived Day on November 19th, and a day later the 49ers successfully claimed him. Claims were also placed by the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, and Arizona Cardinals, but the 49ers had the highest priority.

The Jaguars drafted Day in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He saw 203 defensive snaps and 146 special teams snaps his rookie season. In six games before he was waived, Day had 125 defensive snaps and 41 special teams snaps. He was released to make room for the returning Dede Westbrook. In 22 games with the Jaguars, he had 11 tackles and 2.0 sacks.

Day quickly joined the 49ers defensive line rotation, playing 196 defensive snaps (and two special teams snaps) over six games. He had 16 tackles and a sack during that span.

It is not surprising he jumped right in to the 49ers defense. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was the Jaguars linebackers coach from 2014 to 2016, which meant he overlapped with Day for one season. Saleh installed a similar defense in San Francisco, and considering the 49ers had less defensive line talent than Jacksonville, Day was going to have a big opportunity right away.

Basic info

Age: 23 (24 on July 1)
Experience: 2 accrued seasons
Height: 6’1
Weight: 294 pounds

Cap Status

He is entering year three of his rookie contract. He is due $630,000 in base salary. Since Jacksonville released him, his prorated signing bonus money rolled up on their salary cap. His cap number this season will be $630,000. If the 49ers release him, they will clear all that space.

Why he might improve in 2018

He had experience in the defensive scheme Robert Saleh installed coming into Santa Clara, but I imagine there were enough differences that a full offseason of playbook implementation will be helpful. Seventh round pick Jullian Taylor will bring some interior competition, but the 49ers otherwise did not bring in a lot of competition for someone like Day. It bodes well for his chances to build on his first six games with the team.

Why he might regress in 2018

I look at regress in this case being more like just sort of staying the same. A guy who will be a back-end rotational option and not much else. For a player entering only his third year in the league, staying the same is effectively regression.

Odds of making the roster

I’d say really good. Aside from Jullian Taylor and Kentavius Street, the 49ers did not add much in the way of defensive line competition. Ronald Blair and Solomon Thomas will both be back for hopefully a fully healthy season, and D.J. Jones will be someone to watch, although he was a healthy scratch late in the season. Day is not a lock, but I see him as a very strong bubble for the time being.