SANTA CLARA – A year ago, defensive lineman Quinton Dial signed a three-year contract extension with the 49ers and was widely considered a building block for the team’s future.
But Dial’s name has remained mostly absent from the conversation for much of this offseason as the 49ers selected a defensive lineman with their top draft selection for the third year in a row.
“I’m not really concerned about it,” Dial told NBC Sports Bay Area. “My name will be said a lot in the fall. I’m going to make my presence be known when the season gets here. That’s the least of my worries, having the media talk about me. I know how hard I worked this offseason to get to where I’m at now.”
While the 49ers have spent first-round picks to land Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas over the past three years, Dial remains largely unaffected. Dial is working exclusively at nose tackle. Armstead, Buckner and Thomas fill the other three spots in the 49ers’ 4-3 defensive alignment.
Dial has spent the offseason working mostly with the second-team defense behind veteran Earl Mitchell, who has vast experience in the 49ers’ new scheme.
“I think it’s going to be pretty good for me once I can get all these techniques down and all of the things they’re asking me to do,” Dial said.
Dial is making the adjustment from being responsible for two gaps to now playing in a one-gap scheme. Whereas the 49ers’ recent schemes were based on read-and-react mentalities, new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has implemented a more aggressive mindset.
The nose tackle previously lined up directly over the center. Now, the position shades to one side of the center. Dial said his biggest adjustment will come when run plays go to the outside and he must move along with the center and guard to maintain the same angles. Dial said he believes the new defense will result in more opportunities to make plays in the backfield.
“I played a 3-4 scheme, so that’s primarily two-gapping,” Dial said. “And now we’re just a one-gap defense. That’s totally different. So, now, you’re basically shooting a gap and penetrating instead of reading. So that’s quite an adjustment I have to make, but it’ll be good.”
Major adjustments are required for a defense that ranked among the worst in NFL history, allowing 2,654 yards rushing (165.9 per game) and 25 touchdowns. Dial said he believes the 49ers’ leadership was part of the problem a year ago.
“I think when you take into consideration guys not being accountable to themselves to their teammates, No. 1, first and foremost,,” Dial said. “And when the coaching staff doesn’t hold you to a higher standard than you should be held to, I don’t think that’s a good combination. You’re set up for failure.
“Losing sucks. It’s something I don’t ever want to get accustomed to. We talk in that room now that there’s a standard that’s been set before us. Guys who played long before us set a standard. We need to uphold that standard. If somebody is bull-(bleeping), you need to get called out in front of the D-line, and it’s going to be handled accordingly.”