Through seven games of the 2014 NFL season, there remains some uncertainty amongst a decimated 49ers defense. One thing for certain is that Eric Reid, the 18th pick who burst onto the scene last year for a Pro-Bowl rookie season, is not playing at that same Pro-Bowl level. In his defense, he’s dealing with a number of external factors… less help upfront, a new partner on the backend, the challenge of living up to a strong rookie campaign. Nevertheless, he hasn't looked like the same guy.
Disclaimer: this is strictly the eyeball test. I don’t have the time nor do I care to to dig up advanced statistics, but even the rudimentary ones can pretty much tell the story;
2013 through seven games: 31 TOT, 3 INT
2014 through seven games: 16 TOT, 1 INT
All things considered, this defense has played well. Going into the Denver game they were ranked second against the pass, so calling out Reid for a lackluster sophomore season sounds like nitpicking. But when you watched the 49ers defense last season, Reid jumped off the screen. His game had a certain pop and freshness to it that quickly made 49ers fans feel as if the team had traded up for a winner. He was a sure tackler, had a nose for the ball, and unlike his predecessor, didn’t seem to give up the big play.
His game just doesn’t have the same pop it did a year ago. Again, it's not easy to live up to a year where he exceeded expectations. But a noticeable increase in missed tackles and blown assignments as well as poor decision making against play-action has led me to believe that it’s more than that. Reid is slumping. That’s all there is to it. He’s not losing them games, but he's not exactly the "stalwart" in the secondary that Harbaugh likely expects him to be. There’s plenty of time for him to get back on track, but he’ll need to do it quickly. Reinforcements aren’t quite here yet and when they do arrive, there will be an adjustment period. I trust he'll spend a lot of time watching himself on tape over the break, because the 49ers could really benefit from having 2013 Eric Reid back for the second half of the season.