The 49ers lost backup safety D.J. Reed to injury, meaning veteran Derrick Kindred stands a better shot to make the 53-man roster in 2020.
For the past two seasons, the San Francisco 49ers have relied on defensive back D.J. Reed to hold down a vital reserve role in the secondary, and Reed has adequately backed up fellow defensive backs Jimmie Ward and K’Waun Williams during that timeframe.
Reed, however, suffered a torn pectoral during informal offseason workouts and could be sidelined well into the regular season in 2020.
And that’s just the opportunity veteran defensive back Derrick Kindred needs.
Kindred came to the Niners by way of a reserve/future contract in January of 2020. Originally selected in Round 4 of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns out of TCU, signs were there Kindred would be a productive player on the rise:
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
A wrist injury prematurely ended Kindred’s promising 2017 campaign and he was relegated to reserve duties in 2018 before being waived by Cleveland in 2019.
He subsequently had brief stops with both the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts before joining San Francisco.
The 49ers don’t need Kindred to be a starter at safety, given they have both Ward and Jaquiski Tartt patrolling the back end of the defense. But both Ward and Tartt have injury histories, too, meaning players like Reed and Kindred are valuable to the depth.
The hope, however, is for Kindred to recapture those efforts he enjoyed in 2017 in order to better improve his chances of hanging around for a while with his new team.
Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series breaks down how it can happen.
Why Derrick Kindred improves with 49ers in 2020
Kindred’s 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame is stout enough to play strong safety, and he also has enough speed — he ran a 4.50 40-yard time at his 2016 NFL Combine — to suggest he can go sideline to sideline in single-high coverage as a free safety.
Versatility is going to be useful here, and Kindred has played both spots before.
In 2017, Kindred received a notable 67.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus over a total of 688 snaps, which is indicative of him being able to regularly play at a starting-caliber level. That season, he was primarily over the top of the Browns defense, suggesting a free safety fit would be better for him.
Interestingly enough, that’s where Reed was pegged to be a backup.
Why Derrick Kindred regresses with 49ers in 2020
Tackling has never been one of Kindred’s strengths, and PFF credited him with a total of 33 missed tackles over his three-year career in Cleveland.
That’s not at all the kind of stat one would want for a single-high safety being the last line of defense.
Kindred’s cover skills, in spite of his impressive 2017 efforts, weren’t particularly great either, and one could question whether or not he’d be able to offer anything substantially better than some of the Niners’ other options within the secondary aside from some veteran savvy. If anything, San Francisco could merely be looking at Kindred as a competition piece to push some of its younger defensive backs to perform better than early anticipated levels.
If that’s the case, Kindred won’t see too many reps in training camp and the preseason, which would ultimately limit his value.
Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2020
Before Reed’s injury, Kindred was a clear long shot. With Reed potentially out of the picture for possibly the first half of the 2020 season, Kindred’s chances improve modestly to the weaker side of the roster bubble.
Kindred will still have some notable competition, particularly from other reserve defensive backs like Jared Mayden and Tarvarius Moore, in whom the Niners have much more invested. Kindred will have to outperform potentially both of these names to earn a spot while also doubling on special teams. He did that during his time in Cleveland, so add that to his skill set.
Still, Kindred is going to have to do quite a lot to show his value to San Francisco’s defense. Being capable of playing both safety spots helps, as does his veteran awareness and prior service time as a starter. But it’s important to note that was quite a while ago now, and Kindred’s stock value isn’t particularly high even with Reed’s injury.
A strong camp and preseason could ultimately change that, forcing the 49ers to potentially hang onto him at least until Reed returns from his setback. That might be the best way for Kindred to make the 53-man roster in 2020.