The defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers will open training camp at the end of the month. But before the pads come on and the competition for 53 coveted roster spots begin, 49ers.com will preview the storylines to track for each position group on the team. San Francisco’s hard-working defensive linemen come into focus next in our “49ers Camp Preview” series.
The 49ers have consistently put out one of the best defensive fronts in the National Football League ever since
[ PHOTOS - 49ERS CAMP PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE LINE ]
San Francisco’s starting nose tackle will carry a great deal of responsibility when it comes to maintaining the defensive unit’s run-stuffing success. The 49ers ranked second in the NFL last season, allowing 3.59 yards per carry on first downs. Furthermore, the defense ranked first in the NFL, allowing 3.53 yards per carry on second downs. Forcing teams to be in third-and-long situations has been a calling card of the defense under respected coordinator Vic Fangio.
RETURNERS: Justin Smith (13th season), Ray McDonald (seventh season), Ian Williams (third season),
Even with established defensive linemen in the 3-4 scheme, the 49ers made a point do add depth to the defensive line group in the 2013 NFL Draft and also made a quality free agency addition by picking up Dorsey, the former No. 5 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Following the Dorsey acquisition, San Francisco spent two of 11 draft selections on defensive linemen. Carradine and Dial come to the 49ers with the ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line. However, neither of the two young prospects have been able to practice with their new teammates this offseason. Both intriguing linemen have nursed injuries in the short time they’ve been in San Francisco. Fangio didn’t speculate on a return date for the rookie duo, but did stressed that both would have to earn opportunities to rotate among the team’s established defensive linemen. Other candidates for greater roles in 2013 include hybrid linemen, Tukuafu and Dobbs. Both have mixed in on offense since the 2012 offseason, Tukuafu as a fullback and Dobbs as a tight end. The goal, however, is to use them more on the defensive line and leaders on the defense like Smith have been pleased with their progress as defensive linemen. Another player to watch is Okoye, a former British Olympian, who will be putting on football pads for the first time in his life when training camp begins.
From 2008 through 2012, the 49ers have allowed an average of 3.62 yards per carry, which is the second best total in franchise history over a five-year span.
“I’m playing this one, I know that for a fact and then we'll go from there. I feel good, that's the main thing."
-Smith on playing future seasons after signing a two-year extension that’ll keep him in San Francisco through 2015.
- READ: Smith 'Pumped' for Extension
- READ: Smith Feels 'Good to Go'
- READ: McDonald Enjoys Mentorship
- READ: Dorsey Joins Strong D-Line
- READ: Tukuafu Continues Two-Way Role
- READ: Carradine Confident in Recovery
- READ: Dial Brings Versatility
- READ: Okoye Makes Football Debut
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