The 49ers injury-plagued nose tackle position got some fresh help this weekend.
Fifth-round draft pick Quinton Dial was promoted from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List to the 53-man roster to back up Tony Jerod-Eddie who will start if Glenn Dorsey can’t play as expected due to a hamstring injury.
Week 1 starter Ian Williams is already on injured reserve with a broken ankle.
Dial spent the first six games and the entire off-season recovering from toe surgery and the 6-foot-5, 320-pound rookie has gone through just three full practices since Wednesday.
From 2011 to 2012 he was a reserve defensive lineman on Alabama’s back-to-back BCS national championship teams.
Experience at this level, though, is a question mark.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio addressed the concern at Thursday’s press conference:
“(Waiting) would obviously be good in a perfect world, but we’re not in a perfect world right now with the status of our defensive line. So, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”
Undrafted rookie practice squadder Mike Purcell had also been in the mix to be activated for Sunday’s game at Tennessee and seemed to be the strongest candidate over Dial and second-round defensive lineman Tank Carradine according to Fangio:
“Michael is obviously ahead of those guys. He had all of the offseason work. He had all of training camp, played in preseason games. And, Mike’s able to go in there and battle in the trenches for us. He can play nose or he can play end for us. He’s versatile. He’s experienced when you compare him to Quinton and Tank. So, he’s ready to go if needed.”
So why Dial?
Experience and praise aside, Dial was drafted and Purcell wasn’t.
The 49ers signed Dial to a four-year, $2.3 million deal and want to see what they’ve invested in on the field – same goes for Carradine when he’s ready though Purcell remains the healthiest and most experienced option of the three rookies.
If Dial does see the field on Sunday at Tennessee, he’ll be lining up over Titans rookie center Brian Schwenke (6-foot-3, 314 pounds) who will also see his first NFL action.
This good first-time matchup favors Dial, purely for his size advantage. He could also line up on the outside over the tackle.
Overall, Dial is a space eater who controls his man and is solid against the run.
He’ll draw double teams freeing up the linebackers to shoot the gaps, but his size and slow motor can be used against him as he’s liable to be cut blocked.
Again, Dial hasn’t been used extensively since 2009-2010 when he played two years of juco ball at East Mississippi Community College recording 100 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Dial has been working to get up to speed as much as possible, and does have defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to guide him.
Dial takes the roster spot vacated by rookie wide receiver Chris Harper — Seattle’s fourth-round pick — who was waived after being inactive for six games and later claimed by Green Bay.