No. 1: Can the 49ers Safeties Stay Healthy?
Jaquiski Tartt has missed a total of 19 regular-season games the past three years. That’s a lot. And while it’s foolish to blame him for being injured, it does have to factor into the equation.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmie Ward, meanwhile, has landed on injured reserve in four of his first six seasons at the pro level. While last year was relatively healthy, aside from those two games missed early in 2019, the reputation is still there.
San Francisco’s coaching staff loves Ward. There’s no questioning that. And there’s plenty of reason to love Tartt despite a likely “wait and see” approach with any pending contract.
But the key point of wonder is going to be both players’ bills of health. The Niners cut down on the single-high safety coverage a lot last season, electing to use more Cover 2 looks with both safeties up higher from the line of scrimmage. This kept Tartt out of the box and cut down on Ward’s need to patrol more from sideline to sideline. What effect, if any, this change has on either player’s health is anyone’s guess. Still, it’s a factor to consider.
The problem, however, would be if San Francisco loses either player for a considerable amount of time. Last season, particularly early in the 49ers’ win over the New Orleans Saints, Marcell Harris’ coverage gaffes and being out of position led to two early touchdowns allowed.
That kind of liability for an extended stretch of games could seriously hinder the Niners’ efforts.
So, while it’s cliche to state a team’s best players need to stay healthy, it certainly is the prime worry and need for San Francisco’s starting tandem in 2020.