The San Francisco 49ers lost defensive tackle Tank Carradine to a high-ankle sprain in Week 3, prompting questions how the defensive line will look in his elongated absence.
It’s a shame the San Francisco 49ers lost defensive tackle Tank Carradine to a high-ankle sprain during the Niners’ Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Carradine injured his ankle during the loss and was later spotted walking around in a supportive boot. On the positive side of things, Carradine’s injury wasn’t serious enough to require surgery but did end up getting him placed on injured reserve, per the team’s website.
In a corresponding move, the Niners signed linebacker Mark Nzeocha off the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.
San Francisco 49ers
Up through Week 3, Carradine had been playing the best football of his pro career, even finishing with a respectable 79.9 grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
The good news is the 49ers are planning, per reports, to activate Carradine later this season. But that’s not going to be for a while.
How do the 49ers adjust in the meantime?
More Reps for Solomon Thomas
The 49ers have been easing their first-overall pick from this year’s NFL Draft, Solomon Thomas, into the equation early this season.
With Carradine out, though, Thomas will surely see a lot more of the field.
The two have been rotating at the left defensive end position in both sub packages and base downs, per Niners Wire’s Chris Biderman. It’s likely Thomas sees the lion’s share of these snaps here from this point onward.
Over 126 total snaps so far, Thomas has posted seven tackles and a 47.7 overall PFF grade.
Those numbers aren’t terrible, especially for a rookie, but the Niners are certainly going to be expecting more out of their top investment this offseason.
Identifying the 49ers Backups
Thankfully, San Francisco’s defensive line is already deep enough to absorb this loss, at least to a point.
Ideally, second-year pro Ronald Blair would have been Carradine’s immediate backup, although he’s also on injured reserve with a thumb injury.
In nickel packages, the Niners can rotate right defensive end Arik Armstead over to Carradine’s spot, as pointed out by Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson prior to this season.
Here’s how Wilson broke down the would-be alignment:
Thomas winds up as the right defensive tackle, with EDGE Aaron Lynch at the LEO spot. This formation would work, essentially keeping Lynch’s pass-rushing abilities on the field while ensuring both Armstead, Buckner and Thomas are capable of offering an interior pass rush.
In addition to having Armstead switch, Carradine’s loss might also thrust backup defensive tackle Xavier Cooper into a more-active role.
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Cooper has been active just once this season — Week 1 versus the Carolina Panthers — and saw just 14 snaps, registering one tackle in the process.
He’ll likely be used solely in this backup role and on a rotational basis.
Regardless, San Francisco’s depth here is going to be tested for the next few weeks until Carradine can return healthy.
On the positive side, the opportunity now belongs to Thomas to showcase what his abilities might be over the course of his rookie season.