Sakamoto: Why 49ers re-signing DE Tank Carradine should be top in-house priority

49ers run defense not as good as advertised 

The San Francisco 49ers (0-9) rank dead last in the NFL for rushing yards allowed. Despite this gaudy statistic, DC Robert Saleh believes the unit is playing relatively well in that department. During last Thursday’s presser, I asked Coach Saleh for his analysis on the team’s rush defense. 

My Q: You guys struggled a little bit in the run game the past few games. Earlier in the year when DE Tank Carradine was playing he looked like he didn’t miss any assignments, played sound football, really set the edge. You talk about being a dominant edge setter. He was a dominant edge setter in the run game. How much of a lift is having him back in the fold?

“It’ll be a great lift getting him back because I do think he is a very dominant football player. I will challenge you on the run game part, though. We are only giving up 3.9 a carry and any time you can give up less than four yards a carry in the run game is pretty good.

When you get 35 carries thrown on you, I’d like to think I could run for a hundred. You’re going to have a lot of yards run on you. From an efficiency standpoint, when we look at it from efficiency in the run game, we feel like we’ve been much improved. We are performing in the run game much better. The yards don’t show it, but from an efficiency standpoint when you break down play to play it’s much improved. It can get a lot better and with a guy like Tank it’ll improve.”

Ok, so let’s breakdown play-by-play. Yes, it’s true the 49ers defense ranks tied for 13th in the NFL in average yards per carry (3.9). But the positive vibes stop there. The numbers don’t lie

49ers by the numbers

The Niners rank second to dead last in the NFL, allowing nine rushing touchdowns. Only the Indianapolis Colts fare worse. In addition, the unit has allowed a league-high 72 first-downs by run, and tied for fourth-worst in the NFL, allowing eight runs of at least 20 yards. This is not good when you breakdown play-by-play. 

The Tank is full 

However, the return of 2013 second-round pick (No. 40) DE Tank Carradine should provide a much needed boost. Through the first three games when Carradine was healthy, the 49ers only allowed one 20-plus yard run. Since then, the unit allowed seven more. This is not good. 

Why Carradine must be top in-house priority

No 49ers player has been hit with ‘body analysis’ harder than the Florida State product:

Checking in at 263 at the NFL combine in 2013, Carradine was asked to fluctuate his weight to appease the team’s coaching staff. How much? 35 pounds. That’s a lot of stress on the body. But Carradine needed to add the size in order to play the true four-technique defensive end position. 

Unfortunately that experiment failed.

“You bring guys in, you thought at the time, he could do a little of both and that he could play the four-technique but that just didn’t work,” former GM Trent Baalke said. 

The team then asked Carradine to drop his weight in the 280 range to play in the team’s nickel package (3-tech) under then HC Jim Tomsula.

One year later, Carradine was then asked to abandon the defensive line position altogether, instead tackling a new role– outside linebacker under then DC Jim O’Neil’s 3-4 scheme. That didn’t work either. Enter Coach Saleh…

Carradine’s a natural 4-3 DE

When the 49ers drafted Carradine back in 2013, I thought the Niners got a steal:

A top 15-20 talent falling to the second-round due to a torn ACL–was great value in my opinion. However, due to numerous coaching staff changes while learning an entirely new position only prolonged Carradine’s development. 

Fast forward to today and Carradine is proving his worth. A natural 4-3 defensive end playing the six-technique (strong side of formation), it appears Carradine has finally found his niche.

Through the first three games of the season, Carradine has been graded extremely high by my grading system. Not missing a single run assignment while setting the edge to perfection. 

The Niners have struggled mightily in his absence. His return will prove why the team should retain his services this off-season. In 39 regular season games, Carradine has recorded 64 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.

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