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Shanahan: Moore has played close to a Pro Bowl level on special teams

Shanahan added Moore still has three games left to prove that he can be a starter full-time at safety

Washington Football Team v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

This offseason, the San Francisco 49ers will have a difficult decision to make. Do you bring back Jaquiski Tartt? The talented safety is unquestionably one of the better defenders on the roster, but we all know Tartt’s injury history. Plus, there’s this thing called the salary cap. The 49ers have over 40 free agents this upcoming offseason and may look to pinch pennies at certain positions.

The team could draft a safety, but the odds of a rookie Day 3 pick being ready to play right away are slim. The Niners could sign a safety after the first wave of free agency, which is possible. This is assuming Tartt walks or signs somewhere else. If he’s willing to come back on a team-friendly deal, I’d imagine San Francisco would take that unless both sides are ready for a fresh start at the position.

Tarvarius Moore has had an opportunity to at least make an argument for himself to start next season. Moore’s play has been hit or miss, with more misses than hits. Moore’s tackling was a concern last season when he filled in for Jimmie Ward the first four games, and it hasn’t gotten any better during his five starts this season. Moore’s missed tackle percentage is 16.2%. Generally speaking, you’d like to have a safety under 8%.

Another difference between Moore and Tartt was Jaquiskii made plays near the line of scrimmage. Per Sports Info Solutions, Moore’s average depth of tackle is 6.5 yards. Tartt’s was 5.5 this season, as he played more free safety. In 2019, Tartt’s average depth of tackle was 3.8 yards. Tartt’s missed tackle percentage has been 9.4% in both of the past two seasons.

I asked Kyle Shanahan what he’s seen from Moore this season, and if Moore has played well enough to put himself in a position to start next season:

“I think Tarvarius has got a lot of playing time for us, not just this year. We started him at safety last year when Jimmie missed; I want to say like the first three games of the year, from what I remember. He got in as a rookie as a corner, and I think at times, Tarvarius has played close to a type of Pro Bowl type level on special teams. So, Tarvarius, regardless, is someone we want on our team.

A lot of guys have gotten opportunities this year as backups like our quarterbacks and stuff. They’re always trying to prove they can be starters. None of them have fully done that, but Tarvarius has shown times where he can. He’s got three more games here. I hope he continues to get better, and that’s the stuff that always helps guys. You go into the offseason, you think of where your choices are to improve your team.

I understand some are free agents and stuff, but I know I’m glad I have Tarvarius on our team. He always helps us on special teams. He’s done some good things on defense, and I still think he can continue to get better. If he does, he does have the ability to do that for us.”

When Shanahan said, “none of them have fully done that,” that was the answer I was looking for. It’s not as if anyone expected Moore to be a standout and cement himself as the starter, but any temptation the 49ers might have had to roll into 2021 with Moore as the starter has likely gone out of the window.

As Shanahan said, Moore still has three games to make an impression—which he’s done on special teams. We’ll need to see more plays from Mostert. He hasn’t broken up a pass since the Patriots game in Week 7. Against these next three teams, Moore will have plenty of opportunities. Dallas, Arizona, and Seattle will all test Moore down the field.