San Francisco 49ers: 5 Players Facing a Make-or-Break Season in 2016
By Peter Panacy
No. 1: Edge-Rusher Tank Carradine
Former defensive end, turned EDGE Tank Carradine never materialized as the heir apparent to former 49ers defensive end Justin Smith.
True, Carradine was one of the most highly touted pass-rushers coming out in the 2013 NFL Draft, and he likely would have been a first-round pick had it not been for the collegiate injury which dropped him to where the 49ers made the move in Round 2.
Even so, and after redshirting his rookie year, Carradine was never fully able to grasp a traditional 3-4 DE role in either former defensive coordinators Vic Fangio or Eric Mangini’s defenses.
Despite some flashes of promise at the tail end of 2014, Carradine was relegated to a fringe player a year ago.
It was clear he needed a change. San Francisco, realizing Carradine wasn’t suited to a 3-4 DE, asked him to drop weight and shift over to an edge-rushing role in sub packages — the same sort of thing he did while at Florida State.
Being able to focus more on what made him noteworthy at the collegiate level should boost Carradine’s effectiveness on the field this season.
Why He Stays
It’s possible, perhaps likely, Carradine thrives in this role. Teams can never have enough pass-rushers, so Carradine moving to EDGE gives San Francisco another option with which to work on defense.
He’ll have to do more than just be an OK player, but this is a perfect example of a team trying to maximize a player’s skill set by putting him into a position to succeed.
Why He Goes
Equally as possible is the notion Carradine simply can’t make the necessary adjustments to the NFL level. It’s an all-too common element seen between the collegiate level and the pros. Seemingly every year since he was drafted, fans and coaches alike have been waiting for Carradine to break out.
It hasn’t happened. And if it doesn’t take place in 2016, the 49ers won’t be waiting any longer.
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I suppose we could have listed quarterback Colin Kaepernick on this list of players entering a make-or-break season. But there is plenty of Kap-related content discussing why he needs to do more than just improve under head coach Chip Kelly this year.
And, in reality, the 49ers are in a position where an overwhelming number of players and positions are up for grabs, thus making every candidate a possibility for a make-or-break year.
So look for 2016 to be a major turning point for these players as they look to cement their futures with the red and gold beyond this season.
Next: 5 49ers to Watch in Training Camp
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.