San Francisco 49ers: Predicting Post-OTA Starting Lineups
Jimmie Ward is another player who could break out; he’s been getting regular work at boundary corner during OTAs. He’s still listed as a “defensive back” on the team’s roster, reflecting his weird status as a hybrid safety/nickelback/corner, but it looks like the team is trying to use him more consistently as a starting cornerback. They’re still experimenting with what to do in nickelsets—they’ve experimented with both moving Ward back inside to cover the slot in those situations and with keeping him on the outside—but it looks like Ward will be a starter. He has played well there in OTAs, from all reports, and that would be the biggest story coming out of training camp. It’s possible the 49ers will have their last four first-round picks starting in 2016, and that’s not something they’ve been able to say for a while.
Tramaine Brock will return as the other boundary corner, which makes the nickel corner the exciting positional battle. Dontae Johnson and Keith Reaser have been getting plenty of reps there, and rookie Will Redmond is likely to figure into the battle as well. I’d call that one wide open at the moment.
At safety, Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid look locked in as the starters for now. That leaves the question of what will happen to Jaquiski Tartt; if the 49ers are trying to get their “best 11” on the field, like new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil has stated, then there has to be some package to get him involved, especially on passing downs. It doesn’t look like there’s a room in a starting package for him quite yet, but don’t be surprised to see him seeing plenty of action in dime and possibly even nickel sets.
Next: 5 49ers Poised to Break Out in 2016
I feel like Tartt will worm his way into the starting lineup somewhere when all is said and done, but we’ll have to see what happens there.