The San Francisco 49ers have repeatedly spoken about getting the best 11 players on the field at all times. When Eric Reid was kept out of games due to injury, Jaquiski Tartt filled in very nicely, almost too nicely. Wanting to keep those best 11 on the field, included keeping Tartt on the field, as well as Eric Reid. As a result, the safety from LSU was used at linebacker facing the Dallas Cowboys.
After the game, Reid, who has already worked very hard to adjust to playing strong safety, was gracious about his new position. Still, you could sense a lack of enthusiasm in his responses. He is in a contract year and has been doing everything possible to be a team player, yet this latest move makes his tenure with team look like it’s coming to an end.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke about the move in his day after press conference:
S Eric Reid said yesterday, he didn't seem thrilled with the idea that he's going to be playing a lot of linebacker now. But, obviously with what happened with LB NaVorro Bowman and expressing that he wasn't happy with his role, do you have to have a conversation with Eric? Are you concerned about that, and where is that whole situation stand going forward?
“I'm not concerned about that. If Eric wasn't happy with his role, I hope he'd come and talk to me about it. And we'd have a real good talk about that. But, we're asking, we're trying to get our best 11 guys on the field. And it's not just, it's not an absolute answer every week. It depends who we're playing, depends what personnel we want to go with, depends on some of the schemes we're going against. Eric's done a lot of good things in this league, has played at a high level, has done a real good job at safety. When you're playing eight-man front, the difference between safety and linebacker, it's just where you line up. But, you move to from there a safety spot, too, just a little different depth. But, gap responsibility and everything are very similar on an eight-man front. I think [S Jaquiski] Tartt's played at a very high level for us while Eric has been out, too. We're just trying to figure out the best way to get our best 11 out there. Last week we thought we had an opportunity to get Eric at linebacker, which is really what he plays a lot when he's a down safety, which is every play except on third and long. And Eric, we put him in a position that we thought could help our team. I thought he played hard. I think he'll get better at it the more he does it. But, that isn't just set in stone that that's how we’re going to go week in, week out.”
Are you concerned though that maybe he's a little bit lighter than the standard linebacker against a big line like Dallas's?
“There always is, but that's why you don't play in, that's why we just had it in nickel personnel. It depends on the situations we're trying to go against. That's stuff we have to decide, what's the cost and what's the cost/reward for it, what's the negatives, what's the positives. But, you look across this league, whether you're playing Arizona, whether it's the Rams, Jacksonville with [Jacksonville Jaguars LB] Telvin [Smith], there's a number of linebackers in this league that weigh 210 pounds. That's what safeties do too when they're in eight-man front. That's what [Seattle Seahawks S] Kam Chancellor has every single play of the game.”
What is unfortunate about this move is that it is primarily a result of injury. (Doesn’t that sound familiar?) Reid had been playing well inside the box and until his injury, had the starting position locked up. Tartt came in, made a strong impression, and ultimately took his spot. The 49ers obviously see Reid’s value and want to keep him on the field, but are making him adjust to another role as a result.