We all saw the big plays surrounding San Francisco 49ers second-year player DL Quinton Dial in his first preseason action. A behemoth of a player as Dial is a man among boys, it was Dial’s constant pressure that helped his stock as a serviceable defensive lineman. However, it was another second-year defensive lineman that caught my eye, as last year’s second-round pick (No. 40) DE Tank Carradine impressed me the most.
The Florida State product who became the first Seminole to be drafted by the 49ers since RB Dexter Carter in 1990, it was Carradine’s combination of gap integrity and consistent play that had me in awe. A player I said would prove his worth in 2014, Carradine has proven me right thus far. From displaying his violent hands to stack and shed to using his speed-to-power with his strong bull-rush, Carradine is continuing to look like a steal despite sitting out his rookie season.
In last Thursday’s game, Carradine logged 60 snaps mainly at the five-technique. An alignment that has the defensive end lined up over the right or left tackle, Carradine did a nice job in that capacity. A player that plays with good pad-level, Carradine was rarely out of position or out-leveraged down in the trenches. In fact of those 60 plays only one saw Carradine get pushed back! Not to mention, Carradine was rarely seen on the ground as he shed blockers at will, Carradine looked like a seasoned veteran.
Aside from playing with low pad-level, Carradine seemed to understand his gap integrity despite down and distance. At the five-technique, the defensive end is asked to shoot both the B and C gaps depending on the formation/play. In addition, Carradine must not lose sight of the task at hand, as shooting the gaps too early could leave his linebackers behind him out to dry. However, that was not the case.
A smart and heady player, it was his hot-motor that sealed my assessment of him as a gem to watch in 2014. I already knew he had the talent, as I gave him a first-round grade last year, but it was his non-stop motor that won me over. A relentless player that played through the whistle, Carradine made many plays despite not making the initial stop. Asked if he was winded, “I was a little gassed,” Carradine said. “Just being out for a while and now back in it, I realize I have to get in a little better shape. I didn’t think I was going to play that much. I was actually shocked.”
With Carradine continuing to build a case as a vital piece to the 49ers defense, do not be surprised if he takes away snaps from DE Ray McDonald, as I believe him to be stronger, more athletic, and overall better athlete in what the 49ers want in a 3-4 five-technique.