Considering the 49ers are coming off a 13-3 regular season and an appearance in the NFC title game, it’s no surprise the club continues to have a tight-knit locker room.
But in the case of second-year player
“Everybody here loves Dobbs, obviously,” linebacker Tavares Gooden said.
It’s not hard to see why Dobbs’ popularity is at an all-time high. The undrafted defensive lineman really doesn’t ever have to leave the football field.
Defensively, Dobbs can stop the run, rush the passer and collapse the pocket. When it comes to offense, Dobbs has worked as a tight end this offseason where he can also block defensive linemen of his similar stature and can still catch intermediate passes, both high and low.
But then there’s the third phase of the game, special teams, a place where Dobbs’ team-first mentality has endeared himself to fellow special teams standouts like Gooden.
Any way you look at it, Dobbs can help your football team. That’s exactly why he’s one of the most sought after players on the 49ers roster.
“Everybody wants a piece of Dobbs right now, on both sides of the ball and special teams,” Jim Harbaugh said mid-way through 49ers training camp. “He is a popular guy with our coaching staff. It’s something that’s being, to the best of our ability, thought out and planned and utilized, that he’s not overused, overstrained and we don’t get diminishing returns. We want to hit on the rewards and high returns in that area.”
So far, so good in regards to the returns.
Last Saturday night against the Houston Texans, Dobbs lined up at tight end and as a defensive tackle. Oh, he also recorded a special teams tackle as a member of the 49ers kickoff team, a moment he called the top highlight of his second preseason contest of 2012.
“I made a good hole for Frank on one of our run plays, I was commended by my coaches on that,” Dobbs declared, “but probably my tackle on kickoff. That was the highlight of the game for me, being on special teams and going down the field to make a play in the open field. That’s always a good thing for a guy my size.”
At 6-foot-2, 282 pounds, Dobbs is agile enough to run around opposing blockers and is tough enough to run through them.
No matter where he’s lining up at any given time of practice, or a game for that matter, Dobbs’ mindset is to do whatever helps the team win.
“It also helps solidify a spot on this team,” said the second-year player who appeared in 12 games as a rookie, totaling three tackles in limited action.
Some might look at Dobbs’ position diversity as a hindrance to his career path, but not Dobbs.
“I don’t know who has played all three ways in this game, but I take it as a challenge,” said Dobbs, before pointing out the numerous scheme and gameplan adjustments he has to learn daily.
Despite his popularity, Dobbs doesn’t lose sight that the coaches find ways to let him rest in between plays.
Dobbs’ opportunities to catch a breather have been few and far in between the last few weeks of 49ers practices. After donning No. 96 for his rookie season and the subsequent offseason, Dobbs was recently asked to change numbers, a commitment of sorts to being a two-way player.
When presented his uniform options, Dobbs selected No. 40, which allows him to line up as a tight end and still rush the passer on defense.
“The new number came as a surprise,” Dobbs admitted. “I don’t have problems with No. 40, people say it makes me look slimmer, so I guess that’s a good thing.”
The unselfish nature in which Dobbs approaches the game is just another reason he’s appreciated by his teammates.
“Everybody here respects him for doing it,” Gooden added. “And the thing is, he’s doing pretty good at everything.”
Dobbs’ biggest asset, perhaps, is his ability to rush the passer. In college, Dobbs saw action in 52 games for the Georgia Bulldogs, a well-known school in the nation’s top football conference. There, he learned to be an athletic pass-rusher who can also stop the run.
With the 49ers, Dobbs is also looking apply those skills as the team’s third-down nickel pass-rusher. Harbaugh has said Dobbs has the “license and ability” to perform that role held last season by first-round pick
This past week against the Texans, Dobbs had the opportunity to line up as a defensive end on passing downs.
“Coach told me that if I worked hard this offseason, I could be that third pass-rushing guy,” Dobbs said.
This week, Dobbs looks forward to repeating his all-around role, while rushing the passer against a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.
“It’s a chance to show what I can do and an opportunity to face a really good quarterback,” Dobbs said. “I just have to stay in tune to what I’ve been taught and unleash everything I have. Give it all on every play, every down.
“Rushing the passer is really four guys working together, not just one.”
There goes Dobbs, being that team-guy everyone knows and loves.