It took nearly three seasons, but the 49ers believe they found the solution for Cornellius "Tank" Carradine to become a productive NFL player.
Specifically, the defensive lineman was never a good fit for the 49ers’ base 3-4 defense. But the 49ers think this season their second-round draft pick of 2013 will be more productive as a situational player when the 49ers employ a four-man line.
“We identified it last year,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said last week at the NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. “Schematically, he came from a system (at Florida State) that was very attack-oriented into a system that has a lot more reads to it – a lot more technique involved.
“We play more of a read-and-react front in our base package. And in nickel you get into attacking a little bit more. In an effort to make him a read-and-react player, (he) added a bunch of weight, probably got him into a situation that didn’t take advantage of what he did well.”
Carradine has said he is most comfortable when he weighs approximately 265 pounds. While he was rehabbing from a torn ACL and getting ready to enter the draft, Carradine’s weight dropped to a low of 251 before rising to 276 for the NFL Scouting Combine.
In order to fit as a 3-4 lineman, Carradine put on weight. The 49ers listed him last year at 295 pounds -- a size that is more conducive to playing on a three-man defensive line.
But, finally, last season the 49ers decided he should drop weight and become more of a pass-rush specialist when the 49ers go to their nickel package, which features four down linemen. The idea was never to move Carradine to outside linebacker. But 49ers outside linebackers shift to defensive ends in the nickel package.
“Toward the middle of last year, we switched that put him more in the nickel type role and you saw him start to progress as the season went on,” Baalke said. “So I think you can expect to see him lighter, playing more in the four-man fronts than the three-man fronts and being a strong contributor in that role.”
Carradine has the flexibility to rush the passer from the outside or inside spots along the 49ers’ four-game line in nickel situations, Baalke said.
Carradine did not see any action as a rookie in 2013. The 49ers briefly brought him up to the 53-man roster. He spent six weeks on the active roster before the 49ers opted to place him on injured reserve in order to focus on rehabbing the knee.
The past two seasons, Carradine appeared in 23 games and recorded four sacks.
The 49ers did not add a pass rusher in the first three weeks of free agency, but figure to eye players in the draft who can apply heat on opposing quarterbacks. The team hopes finding a better fit for Carradine, who recorded 16.5 sacks in 24 games at Florida State.
“He’s proven to be more effective in an attack-and-react system, more than a read-and-react system,” Baalke said.