Ask almost anyone around the NFL what they think of the 49ers’ safety Jaquiski Tartt and you will get a similar answer; He is among the best in the league when he is on the field.
What makes Tartt so impressive is his versatility. Whether playing near the line of scrimmage or deep in coverage, the veteran has the ability to make plays.
While the versatility is easily seen from the stands or on the television set, the area that most sets Tartt apart from other safeties in the league is his football IQ. On the field, Tartt is constantly talking to his teammates and directing them to where they need to line up or alerting them to be ready for what the offensive play will be due to their alignment and tendencies, he picked up on during film study.
The importance of Tartt to the 49ers’ defense was on full display throughout the 2019 season. During that season, Tartt started the first 12 games and the 49ers’ defense allowed only 15.3 points and less than 135 yards passing per game. Tartt would miss the final four games, and during his absence opposing offenses were able to take advantage of the San Francisco defense to the tune of 31.2 points and 274 yards passing per game.
Unfortunately for Tartt and the 49ers, the veteran safety cannot stay healthy. In many ways, Tartt is the Jimmy Garoppolo of the defense, playing in only 36 of San Francisco’s 64 regular season games over the last four seasons.
The veteran missed the final seven games last season after suffering a turf toe injury during a week nine loss to the Green Bay Packers.
A free agent heading into the offseason, San Francisco was able to bring Tartt back on a cheap one-year deal worth $1,127,500 which was far below what the veteran might have expected.
Unfortunately, Tartt has yet to step on the practice field for the 49ers in training camp. Tartt started off camp on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. On Friday he was cleared and subsequently placed on the active physically unable to perform list.
In Tartt’s absence, Tavon Wilson has stepped into the starting lineup.
Wilson spent 2020 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, making only two starts while playing in 15 games, but he has left an impression on new 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
While speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ryans had this to say about Wilson, “I mean, the guy that sticks out to me on our defense right now is Tavon, Tavon Wilson. We talked about him earlier, but Tavon has really been, you know, surprising from the standpoint of just his leadership, his communication, his focus, and his consistent approach daily.”
If Tartt eventually gets back on to the field, this may become a position battle to keep an eye on. Considering his health history though, that may never take place. Fortunately for the 49ers, his replacement appears to be more than capable of doing the job.