There is no depth chart posted in defensive line coach Jim Tomsula's meeting room. There never has been. There never will be.
"We don't tell any (lineman) where they're at. Matter of fact, I like going out and seeing who subs for whom, who's fighting for a rep," the passionate 49ers coach said. "I might get Justin (Smith) out of there because if I don't, he might take 'em all. And I get Ray (McDonald) out of there some. But other than that, we're rolling. The guys are playing through and subbing. Everybody is fighting for playing time."
This competition will eventually include two players who have yet to put their cleats on the practice field. Garrett Celek and Quinton Dial, San Francisco's second- and fifth-round draft picks last April, continue to run and work out behind the scenes in Santa Clara. Their raw talent has yet to be put to test in practice, but it could be employed at some point this season to spell the likes of Smith and McDonald.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio isn't exactly waiting on the rehabbing rookies to emerge from the 49ers expansive weight room.
"Someone asked me the other day if I was disappointed in the way it's going with Tank and Quinton, and I said, 'No, the only time you get disappointed in is when you're expecting something to happen or you hoping something happens,'" Fangio said before Tuesday's practice. "When we drafted those two guys, this was the picture that was painted. So we're not surprised that they haven't hit the field yet and don't look like they'll hit it real soon either."
Fangio said it was a "a real possibility" that Carradine, strengthening his knee post-surgery for an ACL tear, and Dial, working his way back from a pre-Draft foot surgery, would begin the regular season on the PUP list.
Given his size, 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, a healthy Dial would give depth across the line, while the hope is that Carradine could mimic Smith along the front edge of Fangio's 3-4 alignment.
The Carradine-Dial duo would join D-linemen Glenn Dorsey, Will Tukuafu and Demarcus Dobbs, among others in the battle behind presumptive Week 1 starters Smith, McDonald and Ian Williams. How many will be active on game days will predicate how they are all used.
"The idea that (the starters) were worn out at the end of the season, I'm not going for that. Not going for that at all," Tomsula said. "When (a team) wants to tempo us and the drives are getting longer, we sub. And we sub with the understanding that if I'm not hearing 'em gassed, I'm going to have a hard time helping the team win."