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2011 49ers Grades: Dashon Goldson

Welcome back to Niners Nation, where we've decided to break down the performances of each starting player and relevant staff member on the 49ers. I was aggressive in that I wanted to analyze the performance of San Francisco's free safety, Dashon Goldson, who had his best season as a 49er.

I watched Goldson closely in every live coverage game, but rewound the tapes on him this week. With his contract up at the end of this league year, I thought it would be especially important to give his performance a good look. And what I saw of him for the most part, I really, really liked.

First off, Goldson might have established himself as one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the league today. Just like Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, Goldson will take your head off. The word ‘physical' doesn't do him justice. As the season progressed, I noticed a few more receivers dropping balls as Goldson lurked nearby. His play this season couldn't help but bring to light the impact Ronnie Lott had here with San Francisco - he put fear into any receivers that took the field and it truly made a difference.

Goldson is also terrific in run support and a tremendous tackler, as the team's third leading tackler this season behind only Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. He is a fearless tackler that is always trying to get in on the action, staying with the play. A lot of times, safeties usually excel at either one or the other: pass coverage or run support, but Goldson is the total package.

Goldson tied fellow Pro Bowler Carlos Rogers for a team-high 6 interceptions this season; and also had one in the post-season against the Saints' Drew Brees. The Hawk has been doing all the little things to help that nickname stick, as well as get a fat new contract. And while I do think Goldson could potentially be the next best safety in the league if this kind of performance is year-to-year, I don't think the 49ers will pay him the big bucks just yet.

It is more than likely than Goldson will receive the teams franchise tag, which is relatively cheap when designated to a free safety. But the team wants him to stay, and I think the fans do too, but does Goldson? Hopefully yes, but this is a business. Fellow safety and first year Niner Donte Whitner voiced his opinion about the relationship he and Dashon have - he would love to have him stay.

But as good as a season Goldson had, there are some areas of improvement. This team is always about getting better and that means him too. I noticed that Goldson sometimes hesitates to make the first move with the ball carrier in front of him. A good example of this is the Doug Baldwin touchdown on a screen against Seattle in week 16. Also, I think he is a very good tackler but he prefers the knockout hit over wrapping up and sometimes guys bounce off.

However, overall, Goldson is what the 49ers want in a free safety. They went 13-3 in the regular season with him as the starter, and he just makes plays - always hungry for a turnover. Goldson gets takeaways and fits the philosophy of the new era Niners led by Jim Harbaugh and company.

Grade: A-

Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80