The competition for status and playing time on the 49ers defensive line in 2015 could be fierce.
Without Justin Smith and Ray McDonald at defensive ends, the 49ers have two starting jobs open, and the fight to fill those jobs during training camp will be one of the more interesting to watch this summer.
But Darnell Dockett, the former Arizona Cardinals standout who was signed by San Francisco this offseason as a free agent, is in no hurry to try to lock up one of those starting spots.
As the 49ers progress through their current cycle of organized team activities (OTAs) and a full minicamp, Dockett seems content to stand along the sidelines and watch.
Dockett, who’s 33, has started 234 games in the NFL and is coming back after sitting out last season with a torn knee ligament.
He told reporters recently that he’s going to take his time and make certain he’s at 100 percent before joining the competition on the field with players who are much younger – including this year’s No. 1 pick, Arik Armstead, Tank Carradine, Glenn Dorsey, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Quinton Dial, among others.
“I’m not in a rush,” Dockett told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “How many OTAs or minicamps have I been to? Just trying to make sure I get to the season – not have a setback in the preseason or anything like that.”
Dorsey also told Branch that even though the team has lost Smith and McDonald – who held the defensive end spots in the 49ers’ 3-4 alignment – the Niners have good depth and enough talent to still be a fine defense in 2015.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can play,” Dorsey said. “There are a lot of young guys that are hungry, so there’s a lot of good competition and guys are working hard. There shouldn’t be too much of a letdown.”
New head coach Jim Tomsula, who formerly coached the defensive line, agrees. He believes the players on the roster are versatile enough that the coaching staff will be able to rotate them into various spots, depending on circumstances, to play to their strengths.
“They’re all cross-trained so they can play them all,” Tomsula said of nose tackle and the two outside slots. “It creates the depth at that position.”