SANTA CLARA -- Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey returned to practice on Monday. He is eligible to rejoin the 49ers’ 53-man roster any time within the next three weeks.
But how much assistance can he provide to the 49ers’ defensive line when he comes back?
After all, Ian Williams beat out Dorsey for the starting job to open last season. Dorsey saw significant playing time only after Williams was lost for the season due to a fractured lower leg.
Now, Williams is back in his old job, and he has done nothing to prompt the 49ers to replace him.
After a rough start in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers’ run defense has been outstanding. And Williams has been very good for a defense that ranks fourth in the league, allowing just 84.9 yards rushing per game. Williams ranks as the league's No. 7 defensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus' grading system.
Over the past three seasons, the 49ers have been reluctant to move players returning from injuries back into the starting lineup when their replacements are playing at a high level. The nose tackle is the first player to leave the field in passing situations. Williams has played approximately 40 percent of the team's defensive snaps this season.
When he’s ready for game action, Dorsey is likely to replace Tony Jerod-Eddie as the backup nose tackle. He would also be capable of backing up Justin Smith and Ray McDonald along the defensive line.
Dorsey's return gives the 49ers more of a rotation on the defensive line. And he will certainly bump Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial down another notch.
Both Williams and Dorsey will remain together on the 49ers’ roster for at least another season. Williams is signed through the 2015 season. Dorsey signed an extension through 2016 just a couple of weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his torn left biceps.