The 49ers defense is so good, that some of their defensive players are making their way onto the offensive side of the ball. Actually, this is less about the quality of the 49ers defense and more about head coach Jim Harbaugh’s predilection for mixing things up and his willingness to have two-way players.
The latest player who’s going two-way is Demarcus Dobbs, who made the team last season and played in 12 games as a defensive end. This year, they have made his primary responsibility tight end, even changing his jersey number from 96 to 40. While Dobbs is unlikely to start, he could play on both sides of the ball at times this season. This is nothing new for Harbaugh. At Stanford, he started Owen Marecic as both a fullback and a linebacker, making him the only two-way starter in major college football at the time.
His first game as an offensive player wasn’t exactly a stellar performance by Dobbs, who was critical of his own play. “It wasn’t all crisp and it didn’t go as well as I planned it to be tonight,” Dobbs said after the game. But with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, Dobbs is unlikely to get a heavy workload at tight end, and more likely to be viewed as an additional blocker, and at 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, he is a load. But then again, with Harbaugh you never know what to expect.
Last season, the 49ers’ 330 pound defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga lined up as a fullback and caught an 18-yard pass from Alex Smith. In the very same game against the Browns, 6-foot-5, 315 pound offensive tackle Joe Staley caught a 17-yard pass on a tackle eligible play. We’re fairly certain that this is the only time in NFL history that two 300+ pound receivers caught passes for over 15 yards in the same game, but our stats department is still looking into that.
The 49ers also drafted Bruce Miller last season, a successful college defensive lineman out of the University of Central Florida, and converted him to fullback. Last season, he proved to be an excellent blocker, helping to energize the 49ers’ top ten rushing attack, plus offered an occasional change of pace as a receiver, catching 11 passes for 83 yards including a 30-yard touchdown.
While everything remains on the table in the 49ers offense, with the additions of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins, there may be less of a need to go to former (and current) defensive tackles in the passing game. But you really can’t ignore any possibility.
By John Lanzafame