Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
When the San Francisco 49ers spent the No. 18 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft on safety Eric Reid, they made a big statement on what they were looking for out of the position. They wanted somebody fast and physical who wasn't afraid of hitting hard. They had that in Dashon Goldson previously, but he was ... a little too eager, to put it nicely.
Reid, on the other hand, stepped right into a prominent role and he looked very good doing it. Reid snagged an interception in his first regular season game and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Unfortunately, Reid sustained a concussion in just his second game (during which he recorded another interception).
Fortunately, he didn't miss any time, but concussions are a big deal. He sustained two more through this past season, and missed a game in 2014 due to the third concussion. That's insanely worrying just two seasons into his career. As someone who engaged in combat sports, concussions scare me a pretty big deal -- it's why I immediately identified with Chris Borland's decision to call it a career.
Going forward, there should be serious concern for Reid's health. I don't know if he just needs to adjust his style of play, but I will say that I haven't noticed anything in particular about his play that seems to lend itself to increased concussions. Still, if it happens at all in 2015, I imagine the 49ers would more likely want to shut him down for an extended period of time and that's worrying.
Reid and the 49ers both know better than I do at this point, so hopefully things go well in that vein.
As far as his level of play, he definitely seemed to regress last season, but that can be explained in a number of ways. On one hand, I think he indisputably had poor outings against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 and the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, but overall he seemed to lack that explosive, playmaking oomph that he showed in his rookie season.
But the biggest reason for that, by my best guess, is that he was asked to do different things due to the inclusion of Antoine Bethea. While I am a huge fan of what Donte Whitner brought in his time with the 49ers, Bethea traded some hit power for a much more consistent, all-around game. Last year, Bethea was absolutely one of the best safeties in the league.
In the shadow of Bethea, Reid definitely looked a bit more pedestrian. There's also the possibility that Reid made some adjustments to try and avoid concussions. Is it possible he played things a bit more safely? Maybe, and I don't necessarily think that's a problem.
Reid is still growing, he has a lot of room to improve and refine his game and playing smarter, safer football is part of that. I don't think the few issues where he struggled in pass coverage -- the aforementioned Cardinals and Saints games -- are too much of an issue because he was more than serviceable in for more than 10 games in that vein. He's also solid in run support, but he's called upon to do that a lot less than you might think.
Why he might improve:
Reid will turn 24 late into the 2015-16 season, and he's got a new coaching staff and new teammates. While those things could lead to struggles, they can also lead to a better fit for Reid schematically. He's healthy, he's young and he's still playing next to one of the better safeties in the league, and with some of the better defensive players in the league.
He could also be asked to do more than he was last season, and if Reid is up to the task, that will be a visible improvement on the stat sheet. If he's asked to compensate for some of the range that Patrick Willis provided, I think he's got the athleticism and the ability to keep up with that and produce. Reid has a bright future in front of him.
Why he might regress:
At some point this section of these post becomes reductive and boils down to whether or not a player can stay healthy. With Reid and his concussion history, it's a little more nuanced than that. Maybe he regresses because he has to play things a little safer, or maybe there's another concussion and he's not playing anymore -- that's a regression, right?
We've seen one All-Pro-level season and one pretty good season from Reid, so by NFL standards he could certainly go in either direction at this point in his career. I tend to think things are going to proceed well, but maybe Reid doesn't fit the new defensive scheme, or any other number of issues surface. It's just unlikely.
Odds of making the roster:
I think the safety position is going to undergo some pretty significant change in the near future. I don't know what to make of Jaquiski Tartt and I am even more uncertain when it comes to Jimmie Ward. One thing I'm absolutely certain of is that Reid is a stud and his spot is totally safe, whether he is eventually moved to the other side or not is totally inconsequential (the 49ers have never been restrictive with which side the safety or inside linebackers play on and what they're asked to do) to the bigger picture. He's on the roster going forward and that's not even up for debate.