Arizona Cardinals

49ers shouldn’t expect much out of Darnell Dockett

What do the 49ers see in Darnell Dockett? It better not be a starting defensive lineman, or Justin Smith’s replacement. Otherwise they’re going to be disappointed.

Maybe what they saw was a relatively cheap (a two-year, $7.5 million deal where just $2 million is guaranteed) former captain of a division rival who, up until he missed the 2014 season, was able to play nearly every snap, every season. And since he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers won’t have to give up a compensatory pick for the rights to his services. Also, he’s outspoken and boisterous (in the photo above he’s taunting Raiders fans), the kind of guy who may fill the locker room with noise after so many important franchise figures departed.

Interesting choice of words. If someone said “that guy plays like dog ass,” I normally wouldn’t consider that a compliment. But even if that’s a glowing statement on what Dockett will bring to the team in terms of attitude, this is a curious signing.

Adequate terrible run defender, great decent pass rusher

— Dockett’s reputation is either partly caused by his Pro Football Focus scores or corroborated by them. He was easily the worst run defender among 3-4 defensive ends in 2012 with a comically bad -27.7 against the run. He was third-worst among 3-4 DEs in 2011 (-16.3). He was the worst in 2010 (-22.4). The good news: he was in the middle of the pack (25th out of 45 qualified DEs) in 2013 with a score of -5.3. He’s improving!

— Great pass rusher, great pass rusher … uh, am I missing something here? His highest sack total (nine) came in 2007. He has 9.5 sacks since 2011 (47 games). In 2013 he registered 578 snaps where his primary job was to rush the passer, and he ended up with 4.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 22 hurries (the latter two figures supplied by PFF). That’s nothing special. In the 430 pass rushing snaps he played in 2012, he came up with 1.5 sacks, nine hits and 20 hurries. Those are nearly identical numbers as Justin Smith put up in 2014 (439 pass rushing snaps, five sacks, nine hits, 20 hurries), but Smith was a shell of his former self and still graded out as a top-10 run-stopper at his position.

All that, and Dockett tore his ACL in August (although Trent Baalke might see that as a plus).

The only thing I can think of is that Dockett isn’t a replacement for Smith or Ray McDonald. Rather, the 49ers believe they can get some situational quarterback pressure from Dockett, who turns 34 in May, and allow one of the other defensive ends (I’d say Tony Jerod-Eddie, but he hasn’t shown much against the run either) to play the obvious run downs.

  • Or, Dockett was a reaction from Baalke when he found out Smith wasn’t likely to come back for one more season.
  • Or, they want to get some info on the Cardinals defense from someone who was in those meetings.
  • Or, they simply refuse to hand the youngsters — Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine — starting jobs and say, “Alright kids, show us what you got!”


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