Will The 49ers Safeties Be Better or Worse in 2018?
When Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson were the Niners’ starting safeties from 2011-2012, nobody wanted to test the middle of the field. Those two were among hardest hitters in the league at the time. They were part of one of the scariest defenses in franchise history, which helped lead them to Super Bowl XLVII. To make matters even better, in the 2013 Draft the Niners selected Eric Reid with their first-round pick. Reid was originally supposed to be a strong safety but Jim Harbaugh thought it would be better to put him as free safety. Reid had a spectacular rookie season with four interceptions, twelve pass deflections and seventy-three solo tackles. His production slowly regressed in the next couple of years, until 2017, when Kyle Shanahan moved Reid from free safety to strong safety and then to linebacker. Injuries last year impacted the defense heavily and Reid was willing to play a position he’d never played before to help the team in anyway he possibly can. He’s now a free agent and still hasn’t been picked up by anyone mainly due to his off-field beliefs with how unfairly African Americans are being treated, and wanting to make a difference alongside Colin Kaepernick. Shanahan has said the door is open for Reid to come back to the team but he’s probably wanting too much money to be a backup.
Jaquiski “Pop-Tartt” Tartt was drafted in 2015 in the second round by the Niners but has been hurt for most of his NFL career. He has started only twenty-two of the possible thirty-nine games. He’s an absolute stud when healthy and has the potential to be one of the best hard-hitting strong safeties in the league. His incredible one-handed catch last year in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers shows that he has the range and intelligence to be a great safety. Tartt signed a three year extension this offseason so he’ll be with the team until 2020.
Adrian “The Punisher” Colbert is one of the most surprising picks that I have seen pan out. Colbert was a seventh-round pick in the 2017 Draft, and he tweeted out that whoever didn’t draft him was going to pay. If I were you, I would believe him. He emerged as a starter late into the season and he took full advantage of the opportunity. He broke thumb late in the season but that didn’t stop him from playing the game. He had a few opportunities to make interceptions but his injured thumb affected his ability to catch the ball.
With Tartt and Colbert as the starters, they could be the hard-hitting dynamic duo like the Niners had in 2012, as long as they’re healthy. It’ll be interesting to watch them both play with the help of veteran Richard Sherman and the second-year Ahkello Witherspoon. It’s kinda hard to play well when one of your starting corners is Dontae Johnson, who was one of the worst in the league, so it’ll be fun to watch them both improve and play next year. This group will definitely be better than the Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid tandem we had from 2014 to 2016.
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