The “1-technique” is a dying breed in the NFL. That’s why it was such a surprise to see the New York Giants select one in the first round. Last year for the San Francisco 49ers Sheldon Day played 25% of the snaps. Teams are going to take the “heavy” defensive tackle out for a quicker pass-rusher. That’s where the game has gone. The 49ers have a few different names to play the 1-technique position this year. Day will be leading the charge.
The Jacksonville 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. Robert Saleh was the Jags linebacker coach from 2014-2016, so the familiarity was there. It made sense to claim Day.
Age: 24 (25 on July 1)
Experience: 3 accrued seasons
Weight: 294 pounds
Day is entering the final year of his rookie contract. His base salary for 2019 is $720,000. Since Jacksonville released him, his prorated signing bonus money rolled up on their salary cap. If the 49ers release him, they will clear all that space.
Why he might improve in 2019
The best offenses throw on early downs. Day isn’t known as a pass-rusher, but he had a few games last year where he flashed the potential to get after the quarterback. Day isn’t going to put up gaudy numbers based on the snaps that he played. If Day has four sacks instead of two, it’ll be a great year for him. If he can go from flashing in five games instead of three games, that’s a significant improvement for him.
Why he might regress
It will have to take a breakout season from the likes of D.J. Jones, Cedric Thornton, or whatever other names the 49ers shuffle in at defensive tackle for Day to regress. Meaning, he’ll have to lose out on snaps. In theory, surrounding Day with better players will take Day’s game to the next level. Statistically, you’d like to see Day finish with more than 5 “stops” if he’s in there for run defense. While I understand he’s facing a double team, that’s not happening on every play. If Day isn’t winning more of his 1-on-1 battles, that counts as a regression.