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49ers safeties: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2015 roster. Today, we look at the 49ers safeties.

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2016, and it will take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was fairly quiet in free agency, but did plenty of work in the 2016 NFL Draft. Additionally, they will welcome back some injured players, and look to further develop young talent from the past few drafts.

With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.

We started with the quarterbacksrunning backswide receiverstight endsoffensive linedefensive lineoutside linebackersinside linebackers, and cornerbacks. Today, we move on to the safeties.

Current 2015 preseason 2015 - Week 1 2015 - Week 17
Eric Reid Eric Reid Eric Reid Eric Reid
Antoine Bethea Antoine Bethea Antoine Bethea Jimmie Ward
Jaquiski Tartt Craig Dahl L.J. McCray Jaquiski Tartt
L.J. McCray L.J. McCray Jaquiski Tartt L.J. McCray (IR)
Jered Bell Jaquiski Tartt Jermaine Whitehead (PS) Antoine Bethea (IR)
Jermaine Whitehead

There is minimal change to the 49ers safeties since Craig Dahl’s departure last summer. Jimmie Ward was listed at strong safety for Week 17 last year, but that was due to various injuries. Jaquiski Tartt had moved into the starting lineup following Antoine Bethea’s torn pectoral muscle. Tartt started eight games, but was inactive for the season finale due to a knee injury. Ward played strong safety for that final game.

Given that Ward is working at the outside cornerback position, I’ve removed him from the 49ers safety depth chart. Instead, the big difference from last year is that now second year safety Jaquiski Tartt has eight games of experience starting in place of Antoine Bethea. The 49ers will likely start Bethea and Eric Reid, and Tartt will play in a hybrid role that splits up safety and linebacker work.

The unit is essentially the same from a personnel perspective. Antoine Bethea is a year older, but Jaquiski Tartt has a season of experience under his belt. The 49ers safety position is arguably the deepest on the roster this year.