No. 9: Nose Tackle Mike Purcell
Starting nose tackle Ian Williams’ season-ending injury is a major blow to the 49ers and, in all likelihood, the Niners will replace him with defensive tackle Quinton Dial.
This also opens up the door for rookie defensive end DeForest Buckner to start alongside second-year pro Arik Armstead.
But the depth positions along the defensive line are no less important, and perennial backup nose tackle Mike Purcell may see an even more critical role as the No. 2 guy in the center of the D-line this season.
Purcell saw action in eight games last year and managed to be on the field for 294 snaps — the largest since being selected by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
Known primarily for his work against the running game, San Francisco’s own run-defense questions may put Purcell into a position where the 49ers look to him to lock up the middle of the D-line.
He’ll likely be competing with fellow defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie for the primary backup role, but Williams’ injury could mean both make the 53-man roster.
Speaking of Jerod-Eddie…
Next: No. 8: Defensive Tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie