Everything was falling perfectly in place for Glenn Dorsey.
After five disappointing seasons in Kansas City, where much was expected of the former LSU All-American, Dorsey was thriving with the San Francisco 49ers.
In training camp, Dorsey was unable to beat out Ian Williams for the starting nose tackle job, but when Williams was lost early to a broken ankle, Dorsey stepped into the job and thrived.
In recent games Dorsey had become an anchor in the middle of the 49ers defense, getting great push up the middle and playing very well against both the run and the pass.
In the Niners’ victory over the Rams on Sept. 26, Dorsey had four tackles and a sack. And against the Rams and Houston Texans, Dorsey was credited with being a key component in San Francisco’s ability to contain the run.
Last week, Dorsey told Bill Williamson of ESPN.com that he was having the time of his career as the nose tackle in the 49ers defene.
“I like the 3-4,” he told Williamson. “I enjoyed what I was doing in Kansas City, but I really like this. … I am having a lot of fun.”
Inside linebacker Patrick Willis told Williamson that Dorsey’s quickness as a nose tackle was especially disruptive to opponents. And defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told Williamson that Dorsey was a big reason for the defensive dominance in recent weeks.
“He’s doing a nice job for us,” said Fangio. “He’s fitting in well with the guys, and everybody loves having him on the team.”
But on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Dorsey had to leave with a hamstring injury just six minutes into the first quarter. Without Dorsey in the lineup for the remainder of the game, the Cardinals – who hadn’t had much success running the ball all season – rushed for 109 yards.
Even Dorsey’s backup, Tony Jerod-Eddie, had to leave Sunday’s game with leg cramps. Then, Jerod-Eddie’s replacement, Demarcus Dobbs, had to leave with the same problem. But, the 49ers defense came together when it had to and helped earn the team’s third straight victory.
“I thought our players really toughed it out when they had to,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told the media. “They were hurting, and that bunch of guys just toughed it out.”
Now 4-2, the 49ers will travel to Tennessee this week to play the 3-3 Titans this Sunday, and it’s uncertain if Dorsey will be able to heal in time to play. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reported late Sunday that Dorsey was limping in the locker room after the game.
If Dorsey can’t play against the Titans, Jerod-Eddie and Dobbs, of course, could split time at the position. Harbaugh also noted that rookie defensive linemen Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial – who can both begin practicing this week after injuries kept them sidelined during summer camp and the early portion of this season – could step in, though Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported that Fangio seemed more skeptical than Harbaugh about that prospect.
Branch also wrote that Mike Purcell, an undrafted rookie nose tackle on the team’s practice squad, could be elevated.
Purcell, a 6-foot-3, 303-pounder from the University of Wyoming, played well against the run during the exhibition season to earn a spot on the practice roster. Andrew Pentis of 49ers.com reported that Purcell beat out veteran Lamar Divens in training camp and “seemed to take to the coaching of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.”
If Dorsey is unable to get back into the lineup soon, Purcell seems to be ahead of Dial and Carradine to get the emergency call.