Ian Williams, like many players who were eligible to be drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, were not selected. Luckily for Williams, the San Francisco 49ers were willing to give him a chance to make the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie.
Now entering his third season and having recently signed a two-year contract extension, it is clear that Williams figures to get even more playing time than the three games he was active for and played in in his first two seasons as a pro. While Williams is expected to see more chances at playing time, he will have to compete for it.
When the 49ers did not re-sign free agent defensive linemen Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois, the team lost two valuable members from that position. Yet their respective losses where mitigated from the outset, as Williams was already and in-house guy who could come in and play the nose tackle position.
Because of the presence of Sopoaga and Jean-Francois, this meant that the only significant game action Williams saw in his first two seasons was during preseason, when he would play against the opposition’s third- and fourth-string players, who were likely going to be cut.
Now that Williams is a veteran and has several years of knowledge of the 49ers’ defensive system, he is in position to take advantage of the opportunity at increased playing time. Yet he will have to “earn” it, as free agent acquisition Glenn Dorsey and rookie Quinton Dial will be pushing to also get playing time at the nose tackle position.
Despite the positional battle Williams will be facing during training camp, it should be no surprise to expect to see Williams become a regular rotational player. In the 49ers’ 3-4 defensive scheme, the nose tackle is expected to be a guy who fills a role and allows the middle linebackers to be able to do their things without having to deal with the opposition’s center and guards.
With what seems to be an emphasis on rotating lineman and maximizing the depth of the defensive line, Williams finds himself in a position to play in every single game and serve as that nose tackle who sacrifices himself for the good of the defense. Williams has patiently waited his turn to play, and now he has a chance to take advantage of it.