Heading into Super Bowl XLVII, we preview the San Francisco 49ers' safety position.
The San Francisco 49ers have a pair of hard-hitters on the backend. Both starters, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner, received their first Pro Bowl selections in 2012. They did not have the gaudy statistics you’d expect, but if you watched them play in tandem this season, you’d know they earned it.
Goldson and Whitner had a strong first year together in 2011. Prior to that season, the 49ers’ secondary was one of their biggest weaknesses. They seemed to end up on the losing end of ESPN’s top-10 plays every year.
The secondary really got it together in 2011. With some careful additions and subtractions, the team was able to solidify their issues on the back end. The pair of safeties were a huge part of that.
In the 2012 offseason, the 49ers had a slight hiccup though. Dashon Goldson was not ready to report to spring practices, displeased with his contract status. Even though he was hoping for a long-term deal, the Niners thought it would be best to franchise Goldson.
He finally returned in time for training camp, signing his tender on July 26th, 2012. Goldson wanted to be there for the team and likely knew that holding out further would not help him if he hoped to get a contract down the line.
This year, Goldson and Whitner accounted for 152 tackles, 4 interceptions and three forced fumbles. Nicknamed ‘Lumber Co.,’ the 49ers safeties are among the best pair in the league.
Having dealt with inconsistency over the years with guys like Michael Lewis and Taylor Mays, the 49ers finally have some value at the safety position.
These guys can hit, they can cover and most of all, they provide this defense with a field presence. They are able to get in the heads of opposing offensive skill players for the mere fact that they are such punishing hitters. They play clean football within the rules, but they're brutal.
These high-impact blows are known league-wide.
In Week 15 against the New England Patriots, tight end Aaron Hernandez looked shook early on. He was not playing as focused or as fearless as he usually does. Then there was a notable throw by Tom Brady to his TE in the flat that was juggled and intercepted because Hernandez heard footsteps.
This defines what Goldson and Whitner bring to this San Francisco defense.
And as good as they've been together, and as much as they like playing with one another, this could be Goldson and Whitner's last year together. The 49ers have the option of tagging Goldson after this year, but that will necessitate a 120% pay increase. The 49ers would need to clear roughly $7.5 million of cap space for him next season.
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