SANTA CLARA –- The 49ers’ defensive line is making the adjustment to life without Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, who were mainstays together at the end positions over the past four seasons.
And nobody understands that more than nose tackle Ian Williams, who now has Glenn Dorsey and Quinton Dial lining up on either side of him in the 49ers’ first-team defesnse.
“You can’t replace Justin Smith or Ray McDonald like that,” Williams said on Sunday. “But you can also have guys who can learn from those two and can play as well as those guys.”
Smith retired in the offseason after his body had broken down in recent seasons to the point he did not practice during weeks of games. The 49ers released McDonald in December due to multiple off-the-field incidents in which he was named in police investigations.
Dorsey is lining up at Smith’s old spot at right defensive end, while Dial is getting the first chance to take over for McDonald at left end.
“You know what you’re going to get out of Glenn,” Williams said. “Glenn is a great player that has a lot of athleticism to him and a lot of technique to him. Guys can trust him. Quinton Dial (is a) young guy getting better every day, every practice. I see it for myself. The coaches see it and the players see it.”
Dorsey returns to the practice field after missing all of last season, which would have been is seventh year in the league, due to a biceps tear he sustained during training camp. He drew raves from the coaching staff after the first practice of camp Saturday night at Levi's Stadium.
“He’s one of the guys I was talking about last night after we watched tape as a staff,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. “Glenn, he’s wonderful. And he’s a really, really good player. He’s adjusted to that well. And he’s still taking snaps at nose. You’ll see him in there. We’re not trying to get tricky. He’s dual training like he always has.”
Dorsey’s biggest role in the 49ers’ offense this season could be working with Aldon Smith to create the same kind of pass-rush opportunities Justin Smith provided for the 49ers’ top sack artist.
“Glenn’s been in the league for a while, so he can adjust to anything,” Aldon Smith said. “With him, just making sure he knows how to feed off of us. He’s moved around his position a little bit. He’s played with before, so I’m sure he can pick up where we left off.
“Anybody that’s filling Justin’s spot, we’re going to have to work create chemistry because that’s the guy who’s been beside me since I’ve been here. But people learn fast. We got a good coaching staff and a good group of guys to make everything easy, so it’ll all work out.”