The San Francisco 49ers’ impressive defense has greatly contributed to the team’s current three-game winning streak, despite suffering numerous injuries especially at nose tackle. Heading into week 7 of the season, the 49ers could have their third different player starting at this position. Nose tackle Ian Williams broke his ankle week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Williams’ replacement, Glenn Dorsey, suffered a hamstring injury against the Arizona Cardinals which forced him out of the game. If Dorsey cannot play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, Tony Jerod-Eddie will likely get the start. Is this second-year player up to the challenge?
Jerod-Eddie, at 6’5” and 301 pounds, showed promise as a collegiate defensive end at Texas A&M where he had 147 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 pass deflections, and one forced fumble. His college scouting report praised his speed and athleticism but questioned his consistency. Jerod-Eddie signed with the 49ers in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. He spent nearly all of 2012 on the practice squad but was active for the last game of the regular season against the Cardinals where he played 10 of the 11 final defensive snaps. He was not that impressive, only getting pressure on the quarterback on one snap.
Promoted to the active roster in 2013, Jerod-Eddie has played in 5 of 6 games. In those games, he has recorded 7 tackles, one fumble recovery, one interception, and one pass defended. He has shown potential for exceptional play. When defensive tackle Ray McDonald left the game versus the Houston Texans with a bicep injury, Jerod-Eddie came in and intercepted quarterback Matt Schaub. Questions about his consistency and durability remain, however, as Jerod-Eddie left the Cardinals game due to cramps. If he gets seriously hurt, the 49ers may be in a pickle. Demarcus Dobbs, who briefly filled in for Jerod-Eddie this past Sunday, does not have much experience at nose tackle. Harbaugh has said that rookie Quinton Dial, who practiced for the first time this week coming off the NFI list, may be available to back up Jerod-Eddie if necessary.
When Williams went on injured reserve, many thought the 49ers would sign another defensive tackle to the roster but the team was confident enough in Jerod-Eddie as a backup for Dorsey that they did not do so. Head coach Jim Harbaugh had good things to say about Jerod-Eddie at the time, saying that the he had worked hard for this opportunity and the team felt good about him. This week Jerod-Eddie may get the chance to prove that confidence is well-founded.
Sara DeBord is an NFL writer for www.footballandfutbol.com and www.baysportsreport.com.