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49ers safety Taylor Mays: Game-changer in 2010?


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First off, apologies for my absence lately. I'm at a wedding in Atlanta, and while I'm getting the occasional post up, Ninjames and smileyman are providing much of the material through this weekend. Big thanks to them, and all the other contributors while I'm gone. In the meantime, we're back with the third in a series of bi-weekly posts looking at "game-changing moves" made by the 49ers this offseason. We first looked at the addition of Ted Ginn prior to the draft, which should make for some intriguing potential in the punt return game, for the first time since Allen Rossum's first year with the 49ers. Two weeks ago we took a look at the 49ers two 1st round picks, OT Anthony Davis and OG Mike Iupati.

Today I thought we'd open up some more Taylor Mays discussion. For being a USC guy (and thus a West Coast player), the talk about Mays has quieted down a little bit lately. I suppose that's due in part to it being the offseason and being as he's not a quarterback, he doesn't fall into the Alex Smith discussion. However, he is a guy that will make some kind of impact in 2010 for the 49ers. Whether it be on special teams, or in the secondary, Taylor Mays will be on the field in 2010. Even if he doesn't become a starting safety in year 1, his big-hitting nature would seem perfectly suited for special teams work. He's the kind of guy that the gunner role was meant for.

After the jump, I've got a pair of questions that have me curious. I've also posted a poll in relation to the questions.

The first question is the always basic, do you think Mays will be a starting safety at some point in 2010? Although I've heard the occasional mention of linebacker work (a'la Brian Urlacher's conversion), it would seem that at this point in time, he has been brought in to be a safety. The good thing for the 49ers is that apparently the two safety roles can often be somewhat interchangeable. With Michael Lewis, the 49ers have left him down in the box more in run support because that is where he excels. However, if Dashon Goldson is to be believed, the nature of the Manusky 3-4 allows the safety roles to rotate.

Given all that, it would seem that the man Taylor Mays will eventually replace is Michael Lewis. Some folks have spoken about moving Goldson to strong safety, but for now, let's just work with the idea that Lewis will be replaced and Mays will be in the starting lineup in some form or fashion. If that's the case, how long will it take to make that happen? Furthermore, will Lewis be replaced because of injury or ineffectiveness? At this point, if Goldson can continue to improve, I don't think Lewis loses his job because of ineffectiveness. When healthy, he is excellent in run support. The problem has been the concussions. If he suffers a concussion in 2010, I think we see him taking a seat for a while given the NFL's attempts to care for their concussed players.

The second question would be, how soon do the 49ers hope to see Mays in the starting lineup? If he puts up a very strong training camp and Michael Lewis is healthy and playing well, how do you work it? Do you platoon the position? Do you stick with the veteran as long as he's healthy? Part of it would seem to depend on how you feel about Michael Lewis coming off the bench. It worked well for Mark Roman last year in part because Michael Lewis dealt with a lot of injuries. Additionally, while Roman can struggle, he also seems to be a more well-rounded safety. He's not as good in run support as Michael Lewis, but one could argue he's better in pass support.

So given all that, will Mays be in the starting lineup in 2010, and if so, what's the cause of his move into the starting lineup: injury or ineffectiveness? If you don't think he makes it into the starting lineup in 2010, what kind of role do you envision for him this season?