After the devastating loss of (NT) Ian Williams, the 49ers have been struggling to stop the “run” up the gut. William’s replacement (NT) Glenn Dorsey has done a wonderful job covering up the running lanes at center. As of this (2013-2014) season, Dorsey is ranked 26th against the run as an interior lineman (+2 sacks). Regrettably, the 5-year veteran sustained an inconvenient hamstring injury against the Arizona Cardinals, last Sunday afternoon.
Thereafter, (DE) Tony Jerod-Eddie assumed his position, recording an impressive interception against the Texans’ (QB) Matt Schaub. The 6’5 (301 pound) defensive lineman has also been a key contributor to the 49er defense. The (2012) undrafted free agent has already has 14 tackles, a fumble recovery, and one interception during the regular season. Regardless, this defensive end will continue to improve depending on the number of snaps he receives; considering player rotations. While Dorsey is nursing his injured hamstring, Jerod-Eddie and (DE) Demarcus Dobbs will be in line to take to helm when necessary. The real question is can these replacements stay healthy for the time being? Most importantly, can the 49ers’ defensive interior hold up?
Rookie (DE) Quinton Dial’s physical size would compliment the nose tackle position quite nicely. However, college football is miles from what the “NFL league” entails in terms of talent and pace. The Niners will probably turn to the practice squads’ (NT) Mike Purcell to fill in the problematic void on a short-term basis. Once Dial gets in tune with (defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio’s defense, his opportunity to nab a roster spot will be highly foreseeable. Schematically speaking, Fangio favors the 3-4 defense, especially when dealing with immobile quarterbacks. With a coordinator who rides on this system constantly, it’s imperative that the nose tackle position remains completely solid (most important position). A sturdy defensive front will allow Fangio to orchestrate his defense into various formations, stunts, and blitzes.
Evidently, the 49ers’ interior linemen are running thin thanks to the infamous injury bug. (DE) Ray McDonald is already playing with a partially torn bicep, which may hinder his performance in the late season. Dorsey remains questionable with his hamstring injury, and TJE hasn’t ever started a regular season game before (uncharted territory). The Niners are one of the best teams in the league who can defend against the run. After the Cardinal game at “CandleStick”, the Niners prominently exposed an apparent weakness within the defensive interior. Don’t be surprised if the Titan’s (RB) Chris Johnson gains a handful of chunk yardage through the middle.
Will somebody step up to fill in this principal role on defense or will the injury bug strike once again?
Worst-case scenario, there’s always the free-agency market to look into.