The San Francisco 49ers introduced a new look on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, making some changes to their dime sub-package. The dime runs with six defensive backs, and it included Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, Eric Reid, Jaquiski Tartt, Lorenzo Jerome, and K’Waun Williams. The dime includes one inside linebacker, and the 49ers went with Reuben Foster over NaVorro Bowman.
The sitting of Bowman in the dime was a talking point on Sunday. His leg injuries leave some questions about his mobility, so seeing him not playing every down raised eyebrows.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh discussed that on Tuesday in his weekly press conference. He said that was not something we would necessarily see regularly, but instead it gave him a chance to mix and match some personnel. And in particular, he repeatedly referenced the need to find opportunities for Jaquiski Tartt.
The 49ers started Tartt at free safety on Sunday, with Lorenzo Jerome serving as his backup. Jerome had been the starting free safety the first two weeks, benefiting from Jimmie Ward going on the PUP list, and Tartt suffering a rib injury early in camp. Tartt is healthy again, and he has been impressing Saleh. The 49ers defensive coordinator said he needs to figure out more ways to get Tartt involved, which suggests we could see more of the big dime and nickel defenses.
K’Waun Williams is the nickel back, but in some run situations, we very well could see the 49ers go with a bigger nickel or dime package to offset a potential pass. Tartt’s role could very well end up like Arizona Cardinals defensive back Deone Bucannon, with extensive rotation to get him on the field.
The 49ers close out the preseason on Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers. There is no word yet on Jimmie Ward’s availability, but whether or not he plays, I’d imagine Tartt will get plenty of time at free safety and some other package options.