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49ers safeties: Better, worse, or same in 2017?

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A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2016 roster. Other positions: QB | RBWR | TEOT | OG | C | LB | CB | S

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2017, with the new front office and coaching staff bringing numerous changes. It is going to take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was incredibly active in free agency, and followed that with plenty of work in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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 move on to the safety position.

Safety changes, 2016-to-2017

Current 2016 preseason 2016 - Week 1 2016 - Week 17
Current 2016 preseason 2016 - Week 1 2016 - Week 17
Jimmie Ward Eric Reid Eric Reid Antoine Bethea
Eric Reid Antoine Bethea Antoine Bethea Jaquiski Tartt
Jaquiski Tartt Jaquiski Tartt Jaquiski Tartt Marcus Cromartie
Don Jones Marcus Cromartie Marcus Cromartie Vinnie Sunseri
Vinnie Sunseri L.J. McCray N/A Marcus Ball
Lorenzo Jerome Jered Bell N/A Eric Reid (IR)
Chanceller James N/A N/A N/A

The San Francisco 49ers are making big changes on defense, and arguably the most important is at the safety positions. After four seasons of Eric Reid starting at free safety and three seasons of Antoine Bethea starting at strong safety, the 49ers shook things up. The team released Bethea, moved Reid to strong safety, and moved cornerback Jimmie Ward to free safety.

Ward played free safety in college, along with nickel back. The 49ers played him at nickel back in 2014 and 2015, and then moved him to boundary cornerback in 2016. The coaching staff and front office turnover has the team moving to a defense that will hopefully end up similar to what the Seattle Seahawks do. A key to their defensive success has been the role Earl Thomas filled in center field. Reid is a versatile safety, but Ward appears better suited to fill that kind of role, with Reid in a role more like Kam Chancellor closer to the line of scrimmage.

Jaquiski Tartt returns, but the team has a chance for some particularly intriguing depth in Lorenzo Jerome. The UDFA has received a lot of praise thus far, displaying a nose for the ball. The 49ers have lacked depth when it comes to ball-hawking safeties, and that could bode well for his roster chances. Don Jones and Vinnie Sunseri are focused primarily on special teams, so would the 49ers keep Ward, Reid, Tartt, and Jerome, along with one of Jones and Sunseri?

What do you think of the safety unit as camp approaches? The position has gotten considerably younger with Bethea’s departure, but the upside for the group seems considerably higher with the changes.

Poll

Are the 49ers better, worse, or the same at safety in 2017 as compared to 2016?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Better
    (1001 votes)
  • 4%
    Worse
    (56 votes)
  • 18%
    Same
    (243 votes)
1300 votes total Vote Now