Big Mike Purcell played very well in the 49ers’ training camp and exhibition games this summer to earn a roster spot.
He even picked off a pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown in a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound nose tackle and defensive end in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme knew he needed a good summer to make the team, and did just that.
Purcell was with the team in 2013 and 2014, but played just two games and was in on just one tackle.
When asked after the Cowboys game if he believed he was playing well enough to earn a roster spot, he said he thought so.
“It feels like the hard work is paying off, slowly but surely,” he said.
Purcell did make the roster, but didn’t make much of an impact – until Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Active for just his third game of the season, and given a start at right defensive end thanks to the season-ending injury to Glenn Dorsey and No. 1 draft pick Arik Armstead impacted by a shoulder injury, Purcell played 51 snaps – after playing 35 total in his previous two games – had a sack of Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, a quarterback pressure and was in on three tackles.
The analytics website Pro Football Focus gave Purcell a grade of +1.8 overall and a +1.4 grade against the run.
It’s possible that Purcell’s first start may be his last, however, if Armstead recovers sufficiently this week for the 3-8 49ers’ game at Chicago Sunday against the 5-6 Bears.
Head coach Jim Tomsula told reporters that the team wanted to limit Armstead’s action against the Cardinals to certain pass-rushing situations (he played just 18 snaps), but that he could start against the Bears.
Purcell, however, has shown that he can be productive when given the opportunity. The 49ers may give him more snaps over the final five games just to see what kind of player they have going into next season.