Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will analyze each position group leading up to 49ers training camp. The full squad reports on July 30 with the first practice scheduled for July 31.
The 49ers have invested their top draft picks in Oregon defensive linemen the past two seasons. Moreover, the biggest offseason contract extension they doled out went to Quinton Dial, and they were prepared to give Ian Williams a nice new deal, too.
While there are questions about the early season availabilities of veterans Williams and Glenn Dorsey, the 49ers enter training camp with few worries about the young talent and depth along the defensive line.
--Glenn Dorsey (possible PUP list to open camp)
--Ian Williams (possible PUP list to open camp)
Who’s the nose tackle?
There is uncertainty with the top two options: Williams and Dorsey. Williams and the 49ers agreed to a five-year extension before diagnosing his unexpected ankle surgery as significant enough to mutually determine a one-year contract was more appropriate. His status for the start of the season is up in the air. And Dorsey’s availability is also uncertain as he returns from a torn ACL sustained in November. Dial proved to be a productive player at defensive end, but he has the ability to move inside in a pinch.
Are Armstead and Buckner ready to start?
Armstead had a specialized role as a rookie. Buckner is generally considered to be further along and more polished as a rookie entering the NFL this season. Buckner could be the 49ers’ best defensive lineman from Day 1. Armstead has put himself in a position to be a starter, too. It should not be too difficult for the 49ers to find a way to get their first-round draft picks of back-to-back years on the field at the same time for the bulk of the defensive snaps.
Is Carradine going to play outside linebacker?
Carradine got significant practice time during the offseason program at outside linebacker. More likely, Carradine is competing to win a spot as a defensive end to rush the passer in nickel situations when the 49ers employ a four-man line.