One of the 49ers’ longtime starters at defensive end was dismissed in December. The other is contemplating retirement.
But coach Jim Tomsula said Wednesday that even without Ray McDonald and Justin Smith on hand in 2015 the team will have as deep a defensive line as it’s ever had. Tomsula, who coached that position group from 2007-14, cited the experience several young players, including former second-round pick Tank Carradine, received last season.
“He works so hard and he’s talented,” Tomsula said of Carradine, who played 146 snaps and finished with three sacks. Among 49ers defensive lineman, only Justin Smith had more. Smith played 694 snaps and finished with five snaps.
Tomsula noted that Carradine not only had to overcome an ACL injury as a rookie in 2013, he essentially changed positions. At Florida State, Carradine rushed the passer from the far edge in what Tomsula called a “wide-9” formation. He’s got a lot less room to operate in the NFL.
“I guess the analogy I’d make is Tank changed from a backyard to a phone booth,” he said.
Tomsula also spoke highly of Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams and Quinton Dial, all of whom can play both nose tackle and defensive end for the 49ers. And he said he’s always respected free-agent acquisition Darnell Dockett, whom he’d often seek out at the end of 49ers-Cardinals games.
“I loved watching the guy play,” Tomsula said. “I just always wanted (to greet him) out of respect. To say, ‘Hey, man. I have a lot of respect for what you do, man, how hard you play.’ He’s got all that talent but he plays so hard.”
Tomsula also said he was eager to see where Lawrence Okoye stands in his third year in the league. Okoye, the former British discus thrower, was a neophyte during the 2013 preseason and Tomsula only allowed him to play at the very end of games.
He played more last summer, but it was still mostly against third-string players.
“This year, he’s going to be in there against guys that are going to make the other team,” Tomsula said. “Let’s see where we’re at.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.