Training Camp battles; What we Know so far Featuring the “Secondary”

Niners Live examines each of the candidates vying for a starting role and vital playing time as part of the secondary unit; and tells you who showed up, who’s showing out and who’s on notice to show and prove.

 

As we enter week two of training camp with pads, one thing is clear; the secondary remains the most scrutinized unit in the hearts and minds of the Niner Faithful. So far, the secondary of the 2017 San Francisco 49ers reflects a more physical style of play than last year’s team.

The Box Safety

Eric Reid has a lot to prove playing on a one year team pick up option of $5,676,000 (via Spotrac.com); and he is back at the strong safety position for the first time since his days at LSU. Despite suffering an ankle injury earlier last week, Reid is back at full strength and made a big hit on Aldrick Robinson Saturday to the delight of the fans in attendance (via the team’s website). I feel that Reid is a natural at this position and he’s refined his technique over the years, avoiding concussions like the one he suffered earlier in his pro career.

Training Camp Battles: The Battle for Free Safety

Jimmie Ward was given first crack at ERASER, also known as the free safety position; based on his play last season. However, coming into camp, his status as the starter came into question. The San Francisco 49ers placed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list and (per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area) he’s not expected to resume training camp until mid-August at the earliest.

Jaquiski Tartt, groomed as a strong safety, was then given a chance to show his prowess as a hybrid when he was switched to the ERASER position. By all accounts (via the team’s website), Tartt has impressed the staff with his versatility. Yet, Tartt suffered a rib injury during the first week of camp (per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee) and is currently listed as questionable.

Next Man Up

Injuries this past week have given other players a chance to step up and make their case for a roster spot. Rookies Lorenzo Jerome and Chanceller James along with Vinnie Sunseri have impressed thus far at safety with Jerome receiving praise from Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh (via the team’s website). Adrian Colbert, who has made some great plays breaking up passes like this one shown in the video clip, suffered an ankle injury during practice Saturday (per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area) and is listed as questionable. Recent article alert: Injuries are Part of the Game; Opportunity Knocks; Next Man Up.

The Number One Corner

Rashard Robinson is the undisputed King of trash talking when it comes to the 2017 San Francisco 49ers secondary. Facing Marquise Goodwin for most of the camp has brought out the best in Robinson, who has more than held his own so far. He experienced some mild tightness in his hamstring on Saturday (per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). I love the physicality Robinson has shown thus far; as they say it’s not always about the dog in the fight, but rather the fight in the dog.

Training Camp Battles: The Battle for #2 Corner

Dontae Johnson has had an outstanding camp thus far and is often lined up against Brian Hoyer’s number one target, Pierre Garcon. His size and strength are apparent as evidence in this video clip versus Aaron Burbridge. Johnson has made many noteworthy plays in camp and has a real nose for finding the football.

Keith Reaser was seeing reps as the number two corner until he suffered a minor knee injury) early last week. He was back on Friday performing individual drills (via the team’s website).

Akhello Witherspoon was welcomed rudely into the NFL by Carlos Hyde (per Kevin Jones of KNBR.com) earlier this week and is now starting to get the hang of things and showing why General Manager John Lynch chose him in the third round, which is on display in this video clip.

Slot/Nickel Corner: The Battle few people are talking about

K’Wan Williams, the frontrunner for the famed slot corner position had a sack on a blitz during Saturday’s practice (per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). The thing I like about Williams, is that he never makes the same mistake twice, a trait appreciated by the coaching staff and teammates alike. Niners Live discussed Williams in:  If K’Wan Williams can Regain his 2014-2015 Slot Form, Look Out NFL; which makes the point that Williams is not to be slept on.

Will Redmond has pushed Williams at just about every available opportunity for the slot corner position. He did well in the 1 on 1 portion of Saturday’s practice (via the team’s website).

In Conclusion

It has been fun to watch the physical style of play in camp thus far. This secondary unit has shown a tremendous amount of resiliency and adversity through the injuries. It’s the kind of unit that will continue to gel and put quarterbacks and receivers on notice. You can expect the competition to intensify as the 49ers approach the first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Recent 49er transactions as of 8/7/2017

The San Francisco 49ers announced on Monday that they have signed linebacker Austin Calitro to a two-year deal and placed linebacker Malcolm Smith on the Injured Reserve List. For more info on Calitro please visit the team’s website @49ers.com.

Injury update alert as of 8/7/2017

DeForest Buckner is expected back today (Monday) after missing three practices with an ankle sprain; George Kittle is expected back today (Monday) after missing five practices due to a hamstring condition. Adrian Colbert (ankle), RB Tim Hightower (knee) and Jaquiski Tartt (ribs/illness) will not practice. They are listed as day to day (via Matt Maiocco). 

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and new Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims