Amidst all this talk about Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine coming off the NFI list, it is exciting to note the contributions of the 49ers 2013 rookies thus far. The 49ers 2013 NFL Draft class is just getting started, but they are off to a solid start through the first six games of their respective careers. And Sunday's win over the Cardinals brought the two biggest performers to center stage.
Eric Reid was a game-changer for the 49ers, intercepting one pass that set up the 49ers first three points, and recovering a fumble that kicked off their epic 18-play drive to put the game away. He also had three tackles, with only one missed tackle, as he continues to show improved form. This is probably the area he needs to work on most, but if this is his baseline, I am rather pleased.
Reid's performance on Sunday, and his development through the season have made it easy to forget about former All Pro safety Dashon Goldson. While Goldson did some great things for the 49ers, he also managed to create plenty of headaches along the way. Whether it be brutal penalties, or trying to go for the big play over the sure thing, it was a roller-caster with Goldson.
Reid is still learning, but it feels much more even-keeled, yet still at a high level. There is something almost relaxing about having him out there. And it sounds like it has led to improved communication. Last week during Sunday Night Football, I think it was Cris Collinsworth who mentioned that Donte Whitner had told him he communicates better with Reid. Considering Reid looks to him as a mentor this isn't surprising, but it is still great to hear, nonetheless.
The other big rookie on Sunday was outside linebacker Corey Lemonier. After a strong preseason, Lemonier was under the radar through the first three weeks of the season. Aldon Smith's rehab has provided Lemonier with his opportunity, and he has broken through in a big way. Against the Cardinals, Lemonier had a sack for a safety that gave the 49ers an 8-7 lead, he broke up a pass, he had three QB hurries, and he forced a fumble that set up the 49ers final three points.
The 49ers will eventually get Aldon Smith back. We don't know when that will be, but in the meantime, Corey Lemonier is helping keep the absence as minimal as possible. Aldon Smith was off to a strong start this season, but Lemonier has made quite the impact thus far.
Here are a couple quick quotations from Jim Harbaugh after the game:
I know you had big expectations for S Eric Reid when you drafted him, but his play today seemed pretty good. What are the two or three things he's done to make himself fit in so well as a rookie, even as a rookie him doing what he's doing?
"Well, he's blessed with a lot of ability. He's very sharp. Learns very well. Doesn't repeat mistakes. He's not an err repeater. Once he does something he gets coached on you don't see that same mistake again. I think the other thing that's really important for him to continue to do is, a lot of times it can be easy to say, ‘I'm a starting player. I'm a first-round pick. I'm starting day one for the 49ers,' and you start to feel pretty darn good about yourself. And, I think he's done a real good job of continuing to know that he's got to work hard, improve and just keep coming. That's what I hope for."
How well has LB Corey Lemonier come along so far as a rookie?
"He's been good. He's been real good. Pass rushers in this game are hard to find and he's doing, it's exciting, seeing him do the job he's doing. And, he doesn't say a whole lot ever. So, but same thing for him, just keep coming. Don't feel good about yourself. Feel good about yourself, but feel like you can get better too."