We're a day out from the 49ers loss to the Atlanta Falcons and it's time to take a look at what the positives and negatives are. More aptly, I'm going to spend some time looking at a couple positives. It's always good to see a young guy come in and prove he is capable of being a starter, and that's what happened with your new starting strong safety Taylor Mays.
With the whole Michael Lewis situation, Mays was inserted faster than the team had anticipated. He even leap-frogged Reggie Smith on the depth chart while reprising his role on special teams units. Aside from one or two plays, Mays held his ground on coverage units, which was the big question mark going into this game. He did play some soft coverage at times, but I imagine the rookie was a little bit on edge throughout.
He was in on eleven tackles, nine solo and two assisted. People have been identifying Mays as a "boom or bust," kind of player, and it's an apt description, but it was certainly boom on Sunday. That special teams play was fantastic. The presence of mind to get the feet down wouldn't have been there for a large portion of defensive players.
There's still a lot of room for him to grow and improve on his performance, to rectify the soft coverage and get some more tackles without having to turn upfield and drag a guy down. There's also a lot of room for him to crash and burn, even though I don't want to think about that. It would be silly to declare a guy the long-time guy at a position after one game, but hey, we can at least forget about this Michael Lewis silliness for the time being, no? Make the jump for more.
Another guy I wanted to highlight didn't do much yesterday. In fact, he hasn't done much in the NFL, but every time I see him, I get this little bit of hope that he can be a future feature player on this team. While I think it's possible that Frank Gore has a few more 1,000 yard seasons in him, I think it's important that we find a replacement as soon as possible.
It's a bit more outlandish to outwardly declare Anthony Dixon as the future feature back after only a couple NFL carries than it is to declare Taylor Mays the starter at strong safety for the long term, but I'm coming just short of doing so, regardless. Dixon has two carries in the regular season, one of them for a two-yard touchdown and one of them for a three-yard first down. He's definitely being brought along sparingly.
Every time he's got the ball though, he's fighting, he's moving like he should, and has come out on top 2/2 times thus far. During the preseason, I was very impressed with everything he was able to do. I know that's not a good indication of things (see Coffee, Glenn) but it's still something. Is he the future starter at the running back position? Out of the sixth round? Just something to think about.