San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ Tank Carradine drops weight for new role in defense

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Tank Carradine (95) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Tank Carradine (95) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. AP

Defensive lineman Tank Carradine, who bulked up to nearly 300 pounds over the past three seasons, is slimming down as the 49ers attempt to squeeze more productivity from him and give more punch to their fizzling pass rush.

Carradine, the 40th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, didn’t play any snaps in the 49ers’ win over the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 8, and coach Jim Tomsula said it is because the team is in the midst of reshaping him.

Instead of playing inside on the defensive line like 300-plus pound teammates Quinton Dial and Glenn Dorsey, the plan is to move Carradine more to the edge of the formation, similar to how he was used at Florida State.

It’s just his skill set, you know what I mean? And again, I’ve gotten more involved in that conversation because I’ve been with Tank for two years and I see where he’s at. It’s just something I feel. So that’s where we’re going. Talked to Tank about it and feel good about where that is.

49ers coach Jim Tomsula on defensive end Tank Carradine

The 49ers play a base 3-4 defense. On passing downs, however, the front is more like the 4-3 defense that Florida State ran, and Carradine presumably will get some snaps as a de facto defensive end.

“It’s just his skill set, you know what I mean?” Tomsula said. “And again, I’ve gotten more involved in that conversation because I’ve been with Tank for two years and I see where he’s at. It’s just something I feel. So that’s where we’re going. Talked to Tank about it and feel good about where that is.”

The 49ers, with 16 sacks in nine games, are on pace for 28 sacks, which would be their fewest since 28 in 2005.

Outside linebacker Aldon Smith’s departure in August is an obvious reason for the decline. Smith once was one of the most talented pass rushers in the league, and he had 33 1/2 sacks in his first two seasons with the 49ers.

A bigger factor may be the lack of sack production from the 49ers’ defensive linemen. That group has combined for three sacks, one each by rookie Arik Armstead, Carradine and Dial. Starters Dorsey and Ian Williams don’t have a sack. Neither does backup Tony Jerod-Eddie. Last year, defensive linemen combined for 14 of the team’s 36 sacks.

The 49ers’ former defensive linemen, particularly Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, also likely helped teammates pad their sack numbers. Aldon Smith, for example, never had a sack in games Justin Smith missed or played while injured. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who lined up next to McDonald, has just three sacks this season and is on pace to finish with his lowest total since he became a starter in 2011.

The lone bright spot is second-year player Aaron Lynch, whose six sacks lead the team and is tied for 10th in the league. Aside from Lynch and Brooks, NaVorro Bowman is the only other 49ers player with more than one sack; he has two.

He’s doing a lot more explosive work, getting back with get-offs, and doing those things has changed up a little bit of his weight training. Those kind of things.

49ers coach Jim Tomsula on defensive end Tank Carradine

Last year, Carradine had three sacks despite playing only 13.9 percent of the defensive snaps. The plan is to get him rushing from the edge on passing downs, perhaps by taking some of Brooks’ snaps.

When he was drafted, Carradine said most teams interested in him wanted to make him an edge pass rusher. He had 12 sacks at Florida State in 2012 despite tearing his ACL in the third-to-last game.

“They were looking at me as an outside linebacker,” he said at the time. “Teams can see, by watching film, see how good I can move the space. And also I was a standup (defensive end) as well in junior college. And then I did it down at Florida State. We ran some 4-3 and 3-4. So teams have seen me fit in that scheme as well.”

Carradine weighed 276 pounds before the 2013 draft and he appears to be heading toward that weight again. Tomsula said Monday that Carradine has altered his weight-room routine and is down to about 280 pounds. The team lists him at 295 pounds.

“He’s doing a lot more explosive work, getting back with get-offs, and doing those things has changed up a little bit of his weight training,” Tomsula said. “Those kind of things.”

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

Sad sacks

The number of 49ers sacks and the season leader:

  • 2015: 16 (Aaron Lynch, 6)
  • 2014: 36 (Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch, 6)
  • 2013: 38 (Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, 8.5)
  • 2012: 38 (Aldon Smith, 19.5)
  • 2011: 42 (Aldon Smith, 14)
  • 2010: 36 (Justin Smith, 8.5)
  • 2009: 44 (Manny Lawson, 6)
  • 2008: 30 (Parys Haralson, 8)
  • 2007: 31 (Bryant Young, 6.5)
  • 2006: 34 (Brandon Moore, 6.5)
  • 2005: 28 (Bryant Young, 8)
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