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49ers defensive backs coach touts Jaquiski Tartt versatility

Even with Antoine Bethea healthy, I expect a lot from Tartt in 2016.

The San Francisco 49ers drafted safety Jaquiski Tartt a year ago, and in short order he worked his way into the team’s lineup. Antoine Bethea suffered a torn pectoral muscle, and that moved Tartt into the starting lineup next to Eric Reid. However, prior to his starting role, Tartt was getting significant playing time in a bit of a hybrid role. He moved into the starting lineup when Bethea sustained his injury in Week 7, but Tartt was getting double digit snaps in all but one game prior to that.

During the offseason workout program, defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley had a chance to weigh in on the secondary, and Tartt in particular. Tartt is entering his second NFL season. More importantly, he did not start playing football until his senior year of high school, and then played four years in the Football Championship Sub-division (formerly known as I-AA). This is a guy who has not played much football, let alone against a high level of competition. Hafley talked about how the coaching staff is still teaching him the game to a certain extent, particularly with regard to fundamentals.

We’ve discussed his versatility plenty, with David Neumann’s 2015 scouting report looking at him in a hybrid role similar to that of Deonne Bucannon. The Arizona Cardinals used a lot of big nickel to get Bucannon on the field, and it seems like this is something we should expect more and more of out of the 49ers. Hafley did not speak to the big nickel, but had this to say about Tartt’s versatility:

“He’s physical enough to go down in the box,” Hafley said. “He’s shown range to play in deep zones, and he’s got coverage ability. He’s very explosive.”

The “base” defense is usually the basic 3-4 (or 4-3 for other teams) defense. However, more often than not, teams will spend more time in a sub-package. The 49ers will have NaVorro Bowman on the field for every snap (or close to it). However, once one of Michael Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges, and Ray-Ray Armstrong emerges as the starter next to him, I would not be surprised to see more of Jaquiski Tartt replacing that person in the nickel on a fairly regular basis. A year ago, the 49ers most extensive lineup combination was their base 3-4 defense, with Bowman and Wilhoite at ILB, and Tartt on the bench. The 49ers used that unit on 68 plays. The next most used unit was the basic nickel (Tartt on the sideline), with 19 plays. The third most used unit was a big nickel package that included Tartt, used for 18 plays. I would not be at all surprised to see a Tartt sub-package leading the way