DeForest Buckner’s 1,108 total snaps last season led all NFL defensive lineman, a feat his position coach doesn’t want to see repeated in 2017.
“I believe in fresh bodies all the time,” 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina said. “I don’t like to see a guy play over a thousand snaps in a season like he did last year. Especially with a rookie – that’s a lot of snaps.”
Buckner’s massive snap count in 2016 came despite the fact that he missed a game – Week 5 against Arizona – with a foot injury he suffered a week earlier against Dallas. With Glenn Dorsey out of action at the time and with Arik Armstead dealing with a balky shoulder, the 49ers needed Buckner on the field at all times. Owners of the NFL’s worst defense last year, the 49ers also had trouble getting off the field.
This year there should be a lot more depth.
Buckner has been lining up at the defensive tackle spot – also called the three-technique – on the defensive line. Chris Jones, who drew praise from Zgonina for his hustle Wednesday, has been the second-team defensive tackle.
Meanwhile, other players like Armstead, Quinton Dial and first-round draft pick Solomon Thomas could fill in at the spot as well.
“I’m a ‘rotate’ guy,” said Zgonina, who played 17 seasons at defensive tackle. “I’m allowed to rotate guys as much as I want. I told those guys, ‘You give me four to five hard plays full-tilt, I’m going to rotate you.’ ”
Et cetera – Mike Shanahan, the longtime Denver coach and father of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, was on hand for Wednesday’s practice. The elder Shanahan mostly stood next to general manager John Lynch, whom he coached with the Broncos from 2004-07.
▪ Seven veteran defensive backs, including free safety Jairus Byrd, worked out for coaches and evaluators after practice. The 49ers did not make any signings as of Wednesday evening.
▪ Tight end Vance McDonald was absent from the voluntary practice for a personal matter. Center Jeremy Zuttah and receiver Bruce Ellington were held out because of minor injuries.