During Monday’s OTAs, safety Tarvarius Moore tore his Achilles, which means he’ll likely miss the 2021 season. Moore was set to be the 49ers’ utility defensive back, where he bounces from deep safety to the middle of the field to nickel cornerback. With Moore out, that opens the door for another safety.
Tony Jefferson and Tavon Wilson are the veterans. Still, rookie Talanoa Hufanga, who played all over during his career at USC, now has an opportunity to get onto the field sooner than later.
Wilson started 13 games in 2019 but has only started double-digit games once in the past six seasons. Plus, he’s 31. Jefferson didn’t play football in 2020 and missed most of ‘19 with an injury.
The team signing 23 safeties this offseason tells us how they feel about Marcell Harris. But, knowing the injury history to the starters, Hufanga has a chance, and that’s all you can ask for as a rookie.
Age: 22 (turned 22 on February 2)
Weight: 199 pounds
Hufanga signed a four-year deal worth $3.7 million. His cap number in 2021 is $720,038.
Odds on making the roster
Follow the money. That will always tell you how a team feels about a player. Hufanga already had the leg-up as a fifth-round draft pick, but the 31-year-old Wilson doesn’t have any guaranteed money in his contract.
Hufanga is best closer to the line of scrimmage, much like Harris, but he qualifies as more of a “football player” than Harris. Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward are the starters. After that, there are question marks.
Hufanga will have to beat the aforementioned names out, including Kai Nacua and Jared Mayden. I like his chances.
What to expect in 2021
Moore played the fifth-most snaps on special teams last year for the 49ers. Losing him goes deeper than replacing a backup safety. Moore tied for the team lead in tackles on special teams and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to down the football after a punt.
It’s not realistic to expect Hufanga to come in and look like Troy Polamalu during his first season as a pro. But, if he can give the defense any production, that’s great. Hufanga’s goal should be to come in and dominant on special teams as a rookie.
After the 49ers drafted him, Hufanga said his goal was to make the Pro Bowl as a special teams player. That’s a lofty goal, but it tells you Hufanga is focused on the right things. That mindset should land him on the defensive field sooner than later.