What the expected return of Eric Reid means to this 49ers Defense

In a recent interview, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan said the goal is to get Safety Eric Reid back to practice this Wednesday with the hopes of him returning for a week six contest against the Washington Redskins at Fed Ex Field. Now, Niners Live looks at what the expected return of Eric Reid means to this 49ers Defense.


How we got here

On June 22, 2017 Niners Live, in a preview to the 2017 season, spoke on how Eric Reid would be Emulating Kam Chancellor’s role with extreme violence. Reid came into the year with very high expectations of returning to his pro-bowl level form taking upon his new role in Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s scheme as more of an in-the-box presence and enforcer. After a solid performance with five tackles in week one of the season, flying around and making plays all over the field and playing with a new found passion and fire, he turned around and suffered a PCL injury in the week two loss against Seattle after amassing seven tackles and displaying his heart and dawg mentality while making several attempts to stay in the game despite the injury.

In his career with the 49ers, totaling 59 games played, Reid has amassed eight interceptions, 30 passes defended, two forced fumbles and 213 tackles(via ESPN.com). 

Secondary Woes

Coming into week five, the 49ers’ pass defense was ranked 28th, giving up 250 yards a game through the air with only three interceptions, (one) coming from a member of the secondary safety, Jaquiski Tartt (via ESPN.com). Cornerback’s Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson both share one of the lowest starting (Pro Football Focus Grades) in the NFL by two starting corners. Johnson grades out at 40.8 overall, 41.7 pass coverage and 33.5 in run defense. Robinson grades out at 42.3 overall, 45.0 pass coverage and 76.5 in run defense. As a unit, the secondary had surrendered seven passing touchdowns, a 64.3 percent completion percentage and just over seven yards per catch to opposing offenses.

Transaction alert: 49ers Sign CB Leon Hall, Place CB Asa Jackson on IR (via the team’s website). 

It’s apparent that since Reid’s absence the inexperience and youth of this unit has come into play often, leading to backbreaking plays, missed assignments and overall lackluster play that have put the defense on their heels on too many occasions. In week five against the Indianapolis Colts, the secondary continued to look bewildered, even against a rookie quarterback in Jacoby Brissett who torched the 49ers defense for 322 yards passing on a 9.2 average per pass.  Reid’s veteran presence and leadership is something that is sorely lacking, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better as the yards and catches from opposing offenses have continued to pile up without him on the field.

What the expected return of Eric Reid means to the 49ers defense

Even though, according to ex-49er the Inconvenient truth Mr. Frank Gore himself who stated in a recent interview (via the team’s website) that, “Reid was looking like his rookie year when he was with us,” look to see a shake-up in the defensive backfield with the return of Reid to the lineup. Even though Jacquiski Tartt is playing amongst the top safeties in the league according to pro football focus and has quietly become the most Improved player on the 49ers defense and Jimmie Ward continues to receive rave reviews from Kyle Shanahan since returning from injury, it still appears Reid will be inserted back into his in-the-box safety position.

Assuming Reid is a 100 percent full go, look for Tartt to still see considerable playing time with the defense using different packages to feature their playmakers in the secondary. This could also, in turn, lead to less playing time for the likes of the rookie third-round draft pick cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who finally made it to the active list this week for the first time this season, but has already been crowned by Niners Live as the Biggest draft disappointment through the first quarter.

Reid was mentioned shortly after cornerback K’waun Williams received a three-year extension as one of the other pending free agents that negotiations have started with. In Eric’s situation, it was a new system and then he got hurt,” General Manager John Lynch said. “Other guys are playing well at that position, but Eric is a guy we’re high on. That’s what we wanted to do: create competition at each position and we have that at safety. When Eric comes back, he’ll get to go play.” One must wonder, however, with his recent injury history and the rise of Jacquiski Tartt who is signed through 2018, will the 49ers see Reid as expendable at the end of the season? Week six in the National Capitol will be a big test, let’s see how he responds to the challenge.

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. AuthorIrvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor Sequoia Sims.