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Jim O’Neil talks Jaquiski Tartt’s return and ILB competition

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In his pre practice media availability at San Francisco 49ers training camp, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil spoke about the progress of the defense thus far. He gave updates that Jaquiski Tartt has been cleared to practice and the competition for ILB continues.

Tartt, who did not pass his training camp physical due to a pulled/strained quad muscle, will return to the field but at a more limited rate than if he was full go from the beginning. The defensive staff is prepared to create packages around his abilities. Same goes for Nick Bellore who has been a regular participant in special teams play and rookie Ronald Blair who has been getting time in at several defensive positions so far.

DeForest Buckner has been earning the respect of the players and the staff and will continue to move up in the ranks. O’Neil stated it doesn’t matter when you were drafted it matters what they see on the field and in the meeting rooms.

O’Neil said who will play ILB next to NaVorro Bowman is still an even competition between the Gerald Hodges, Ray Ray Armstrong and Michael WIlhoite. If one pulls ahead of the pack, that player will start, if no one stands out, all three will play, likely in some sort of rotation. The competition could continue up until week four even though he’d like to name a starter now, it’s up to the players to see who pulls ahead.

The defensive coordinator has been impressed with the development of the secondary as well. A few of the players are still wearing light MMA mittens to keep them from holding penalties. O’Neil was actually made aware of Rashard Robinson by Trent Baalke well before the draft and liked what he saw in his press man coverage. Will Redmond has impressed the staff with his man coverage and blitzing abilities as well as his attention in the meeting room.

As expected there are no new line up certainties but continued evaluation. Preseason games will likely be a determining factor as practices are still not “live.” The 6th practice is without pads after three days with pads and the team has one more practice on Sunday before their day off on Monday.