Sports Out West

49ers Minicamp 2013: Changes at Nose Tackle

isaac sopoaga

The San Francisco 49ers find themselves in a state of flux at the nose tackle position after declining to re-sign starter Isaac Sopoaga and his primary backup, Ricky Jean-Francois, this off-season.

The 49ers did not make any kind of a push to retain either player. Sopoaga ultimately signed a a 3-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles while Jean-Francois inked a 4-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts.

The 49ers instead extended Ian Williams for 2-years and 3.2 million and signed former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Glen Dorsey to a free agent deal worth 7 million dollars over two seasons.

The 49ers resigning of Williams showed that the years invested in him had apparently paid off. The team has kept Williams around the last two seasons, grooming him for a role in their 3-4 system. He has mostly been a member of the practice squad but did appear in four games over two years totaling seven tackles. At 6’1 and a little over 300 pounds, Williams looks to be the primary reserve at the nose tackle position and could go inside if they needed him to when the situation calls for four down linemen.

Dorsey could end up being a huge bargain for the team. He was a dominant defensive lineman in college at LSU and came into the NFL with high expectations when the Kansas City Chiefs took him with the 5th pick of the 2008 draft. Dorsey was so good at the collegiate level he took home the Nagurski, Lombardi, Outland, and Lott Awards as a senior. He was seen as a player who could have a huge impact in the NFL but never lived up to expectations. Dorsey may be best suited as a 4-3 defensive tackle and could have been miscast as a 3-4 defensive end with the Chiefs.

Now a 49er, the thought is he would be the starting nose tackle and could move to end if Justin Smith or Ray McDonald are injured or need a breather. At 297 pounds, Dorsey does not have the ideal size for the nose position (Sopoaga was 330 for example) but he is very talented and could play bigger than he is. You could also see him playing inside with Justin Smith when the 49ers use four down linemen.The 49ers defensive line is a well prepared unit and one would have to believe coach Jim Tomsula will get the best out of Dorsey wherever he lines up.

The Dorsey move may also signal a bit of a shift in defensive philosophy for the 49ers. The team may go to more of a hybrid defense that can feature three or four defensive lineman and rotate players in and out more. Even if that is not the case, in today’s NFL, teams are in their nickel package a lot. In that scenario, you’re using four down lineman anyway. Justin Smith and Dorsey at the defensive tackle positions has the promise be a dominant pair for the 49ers.

 Photo Credit: 49ersparadise / Flickr

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a staff writer for 49erswebzone.com and 49ersgab.com. He is also a contributor to Yahoo! Voices.