49ers roster turnover: Have the safeties improved?

Crystal Logiudice-US PRESSWIRE

The 49ers let Dashon Goldson walk in free agency, and traded up in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to select safety Eric Reid. With this change, and a few additional moves, are the 49ers better, worse or the same compared to the end of last season?

The 49ers rookies report to training camp later this week, followed by veterans five days later. We're continuing our countdown to training camp with a series of articles titled "49ers roster turnover." I'm going through the various position groups and considering how the roster has changed over the last 12 months. We'll take a look at the team's depth chart heading into the first preseason game last year, prior to Week 1 of the regular season, the Super Bowl and then how it currently stands. Four depth charts give us an idea of how the roster developed over the course of the year.

Today we take a look at a pair of positions that are high on everybody's radar: the safety positions. The 49ers biggest free agency departure this offseason was free safety Dashon Goldson, and the team potentially replaced him by trading up in the first round to select LSU safety Eric Reid. Here is a look at the how the depth chart has shaken out over the last 12 months.

Preseason 2012 depth chart

FS: Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman, Cory Nelms, Colin Jones, Mark LeGree
SS: Donte Whitner, Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath, Michael Thomas

Week 1 depth chart

FS: Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman
SS: Donte Whitner, Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath

Super Bowl depth chart

FS: Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman
SS: Donte Whitner, Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath

Current depth chart

FS: Craig Dahl, Eric Reid, Darcel McBath, Michael Thomas
SS: Donte Whitner, C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson, Raymond Ventrone

The changing depth chart shows the bench players rotating between safety positions. First off, we know the 49ers sometimes talk about having safeties who can play both positions. Second, the first three depth charts are from the 49ers press releases at those times, while the last depth chart comes courtesy of Matt Barrows.

Barrows went with Craig Dahl as the first string free safety, in part because he has handled much of the first team work. Reid earned some first team snaps as the offseason workout program got started, but he likely will head into camp still trying to earn that starting free safety job. I think he will earn the job at some point in training camp, but when exactly remains to be seen.

I'd prefer Reid get first team snaps from day one, because we all know he will be starting sooner rather than later. He's got the athleticism, work ethic and intelligence, so why not just throw him in the deep end and see how he does? Considering how excited Rams' fans were for Craig Dahl to sign with the 49ers, I have to think he's an emergency safety option, and ticketed for primarily a special teams role.

C.J. Spillman can't be forgotten in this mix. He has primarily focused on special teams, but he also got safety work with the 49ers goal-line defense. I have to think he will get some cracks along with this group. Barrows' depth chart is his intuition on this group, so we'll see who is getting what work once full team practices get started.

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