As the 49ers took the field this past week against the Los Angeles Rams, there was one key leader from the team that didn't get on the field -- S Eric Reid. After going down in the Week 2 matchup in Seattle, Reid missed the Rams game and is likely to miss extended time due to a PCL injury.
But it allowed for a unique opportunity, which was the pairing of young safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. It was one of the few times we were able to see them both together on the field in Robert Saleh's new defensive scheme.
Immediately in the first quarter, what became prevalent was that Tartt and Ward were flying around, making tackles, laying the hammer on people and it reminded me of the physicality that Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner brought in their time together.
My Twitter timeline was in love with Tartt's play -- especially with the game being on Thursday Night Football's national stage. Former NFL Scout John Middlekauff tweeted out that "[Jaquiski] Tartt was easily the best defensive back in the Bay [Area]."
So that's when it occurred to me, would the San Francisco 49ers consider letting Eric Reid walk in free agency, with the emergence of Ward and Tartt? The 49ers and Reid haven't come to terms yet on a contract extension and it looks like Reid will hit the open market after the season.
So will John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan ride it out with the younger safeties and let Reid walk in free agency? Personally, I think so.
In their first start as the safety duo for the 49ers, Ward and Tartt had a field day, combining for the most and second-most tackles on the team. Ward led the way with seven and Tartt came in second with six tackles and one assist. They were also laying down the hammer if receivers dared to catch the ball in the middle of the field.
I think they both play downhill, fast and can stop the running attack and also roam the field in passing situations. The major concern with both players has been their prior injury histories. Fans feel like Ward and Tartt aren't reliable enough on a week-to-week basis to let Reid walk.
So far in his career, Ward played in eight games his rookie season, 16 games his sophomore season and 11 games his third year. He's missed one game so far this season, but he appears to be on pace to be on the field for the remaining games. His injury history is well-documented, but they aren't recurring injuries that fans should have long-term concerns about.
On the other hand, Tartt has appeared in 15 games each of his first two seasons and has started all three games so far this year. He did leave the Rams' game with a head injury, has been diagnosed with a concussion.
Similarly, the older ex-LSU safety, Reid, has also suffered numerous concussions and has had multiple other injuries too. The position they play requires a lot of hard hitting and quick movements. They're bound to get injured, but none of these players have recurring injuries to be worried about.
With Reid likely to command top dollar and be paid like one of the top safeties in the game, I think the 49ers can choose to go the younger route, develop Ward and Tartt into their starting duo, with Adrian Colbert and Lorenzo Jerome as the backups. Great teams will find ways to develop young talent and I think San Francisco's at a point where they can move on from their veteran safety after the season.