Niners Live gives 49ers fans foresight into the future and highlights why: The 49ers Should Feature Safety Tandem of Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt.
Making it to the NFL isn’t an easy task; millions of children dream of playing professional football. Imagine playing high school football with your best friend, both of you starting safeties, and then getting drafted by the same professional team. That dream is the reality of 49ers defensive backs Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. The tandem attended Davidson High School in Mobile, Alabama together.
On his draft day, Tartt commented on the unique reunion, “I was ecstatic. I prayed to God to put me in the right spot, and he came through for me. I ended up on a team with my best friend.” (49ers.com).
Ward, 5’11 and 192 lbs., a first round pick in the 2014 draft played safety for Northern Illinois and has become the Niners most versatile defensive back. Since joining the team he has played safety, slot and last year, moved to cornerback. He has been bitten by the injury bug a few times, but when healthy, he is an aggressive player who displays above-average awareness, sound tackling, and a strong determination to shut down his opponent on every play.
In 2016, Ward started 10 out of 11 games and registered 53 tackles, one interception and a career-high 12 passes defended, and also picked up his first career forced fumble and fumble recovery on special teams. He was placed on injured reserve on December 20, 2016. How about a flashback video that fans can relate to? Featuring defensive back Jimmie Ward.
Note: Ward’s PFF grades are overall 75.8, coverage 75.3, run defense 73.95. He also has a passion for studying his playbook and game film and has impressed former coaches with his mental approach to the game. The 49ers need more players with intangibles like Ward, who also likes to roam in the backfield as an actual safety which is more of his comfort level indeed. Could we then see his complete game and assets on display if he was moved to safety? Like his burst of speed and potential ball-hawking ways similar like we saw from him in college? Feeling intrigued.
Could the new DC, Robert Saleh, be smelling a poor man’s version of 5’ 10” and 202lbs Earl Thomas in the making? Speaking regarding range, athletic ability, size, speed and ball skills, of course, potential/upside-wise.
Tartt, 6’1 and 221 lbs., was a surprise selection in the second round of the 2015 draft because he came from Samford, a little-known division I school. Once his highlight reel was played it was obvious the 49ers had found a diamond in the rough. Tartt, 61 tackles, one sack, and three passes defended, has delivered some of the hardest hits on defense since joining the team. He plays with great tenacity (as seen in the video). He must work on his all-around game, but displayed some solid coverage skills with room still to grow, and his tackling technique could use some polishing up, if you will; enter new GM John Lynch, why don’t you?
Tartt at times goes for the big hit rather than making the safe tackle, can be corrected through good coaching. Note: Tartt’s PFF grades are overall 70.2, coverage 72.2, and run defense 51.4.
From a personnel standpoint, the 49ers can move Ward back to safety with the emergence of surprise rookie standout corner Rashard Robinson, accompanied by the additions of 2015 injured reserved player Will Redmond and recently signed defensive back K’Waun Williams. Plus veterans Tramaine Brock and Keith Reaser. The team will also look to add to the position via the draft and free agency.
Ward and Tartt should enter the offseason in an open position battle for the starting safety positions. Safeties are the last line of defense for a team and last year’s starting tandem did a horrendous job. They allowed too many big plays against the run and the pass. Time for an upgrade!
I’ll close with this:
New GM John Lynch was one of the best safeties of his era. A strong safety who put fear in the heart of opposing receivers attempting to catch passes over the middle, who also had the awareness and ball skills to make timely interceptions. Lynch played the game from the head up and will one day be in the Hall of Fame. I mention this because Ward and Tartt each embody parts of Lynch’s game; tenacity, aggressiveness, awareness, desire to dominate and a love of the game. Lynch will see this on film and experience it when he interacts with them.
Will Lynch share his secrets? Will he give this future tandem the football knowledge he amassed during his 15 year NFL career? You know he will. If the two best friends can raise their game with his influence and then translate it onto the field, the defense has the potential to return to respectability.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Editor NinersLive. Co-Author Jimi Payne Staff Writer at Niners live.