The club will most likely retain only 6 DL on the 53-man roster, given the commitment to the 3-4 scheme. At first glance, the DL would appear to be set, as follows:
LDE: Evans and Balmer rotation
NT: Franklin and Sopoaga rotation
RDE: Smith and McDonald rotation
But where is the legitimate TC competition and the cushion in case of an injury among these 6 players?
IMHO, the Niners need two more bodies in the DL competitive mix. I expect the club to select one in the draft and get another via FA, after clubs begin cutting players. At least one of these 2 additional guys needs to be able to play NT. Franklin is entering his contract year and Sopoaga has stated that he much preferred playing LDE over NT. Maybe a 1-gap responsibility for the NT will allow Sopoaga to be re-sold on the merits of playing that position. Sopoaga seems to be a "high maintenance" guy, in that his position coach has to continually give him lots of time and encouragement.
I thought that Tomsula really got through to Sopoaga last year, in getting a more consistent effort, from play-to-play. But Sopoaga's inate, football skills, just seem to be slow in developing. In particular, he doesn't seem to have an instinct for quickly locating the ball. When he previously played NT, it was frustrating to see him hit one "A" gap, only to see the ball carrier go through the other "A" gap, without Sopoaga even getting a hand on the guy. That has to change if Sopoaga is going back to the NT position.
An improved Sopoaga can have a major impact on the effectiveness of the entire defense, not as a pass rusher, but in stone-walling the inside run and allowing the LB's to swarm to the ball.
[ Edited by jimbagg on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:01 PM ]