I wondered who would get the loudest cheers when I found out that the defense was going to be introduced at the Houston Texans vs San Francisco 49ers game. Patrick Willis was not going to be cleared to suit up for this game. Usually, he is the one the gets the loudest response when his name is announced. The next most logical choice would be Navorro Bowman. He was introduced first and surely got a rousing applause but the player that got the loudest cheers on that night was none other than rookie free safety Eric Reid.
Trent Baalke and the 49ers staff had a huge whole to fill on their defense after Dashon Goldson moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They identified their man early and made sure that they got him by trading up in the draft to do so. The 49ers moved up to the 18th selection by giving the Dallas Cowboys the 31st and 74th picks. Some questioned the trade and wondered if the 49ers reached for Reid.
One of the better NFL draft analysts felt that the trade will be a great one for the 49ers. “With Dashon Goldson gone, there’s nobody to step in and play. This kid is a big, physical safety with great movement skills. He will be a wonderful complement to Donte Whitner.” — Mike Mayock
Reid’s draft prospect profile on NFL.com had a high rating. “The next SEC safety on which scouts have their eye, Reid brings the size, athleticism, intelligence and toughness to become an impact player in coverage (14 passes defended in the last two seasons) as well as against the run (91 total tackles) at the next level. The junior can get too overaggressive with his angles, but if Reid can rein in the athleticism, he has plenty of range to make plays all over the field.”
His results in the forty yard dash (4.53), vertical (40.5) and broad jump (134 inches) were the tops among all safeties. Charles Davis raved about Reid every week on the NFL Network’s show Path To The Draft. Bucky Brooks favorably compared him to Mark Barron, a highly rated safety from Alabama that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted with the seventh overall pick in 2012.
Replacing a first team All Pro player like Goldson is not something that just any first year player can do. Reid has the right mindset. “I’m just trying to get better every day for myself. They obviously had a great safety here before I got here. I am trying to get better every day taking the positive criticism and hopefully one day I can get to the status that he was.”
When talking to Eric Reid, you get the sense that he gets it. He is one of those players that you can’t help but like. The 49ers saw him as a gold helmet player and it is very easy to see why, whether it be his 4.6 GPA or even how he brought his daughter on stage with him at the draft. That struck a chord with me as I have daughters and have a close relationship with them.
The intangibles are there for Reid. His father, Eric Reid Sr. is in LSU’s athletic hall of fame. Reid Sr. was an All-American hurdler and won the NCAA championship in the 110-meter hurdles as a senior in 1987. Reid Jr. started and excelled in multiple seasons with LSU in the best conference in college football.
How has all of this transferred to the football field in the NFL? Well, his first game was a big test against one of the best quarterbacks leading one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Reid stepped up to the plate and delivered seven tackles, one pass break up and one interception. He had a second interception on the goal line but it was called back after an offsides call on the defense.
The next game was another test when the 49ers went to Seattle to face the Seahawks and Russell Wilson. Reid recorded his second interception before he suffered from a concussion when he laid a hit on Sidney Rice in the middle of the field.
The Texans game was a real display of how aggressively Reid comes up in run support. Reid had eight tackles. He is a very sure tackler and laid some big hits on the Texans running backs. He played a major role in filing the gaps when Arian Foster looked to make his sudden cutbacks that were a designed part of the Texans running game. Jim Harbaugh recognized this when I asked him to tell me about what he saw from Reid after the game. “Doing a good job in the open field making tackles. A physical player.”
Harbaugh went on to talk about how Reid had an interception slip from his hands, but found a silver lining. “It was great to see him diagnose the play. I’m sure he wishes he would have caught the ball, but it was great to see him break on the ball and be in that kind of position. Once you do it then you get the confidence that you can do that again. I’m glad he was in that situation because now next time I know he’ll finish that play. He does a great job of learning from his mistakes. Every time something happens to him, he has not been an error repeater.”
The thing that I like about Reid is how humble he is. He is willing to take a coach’s criticism. “I give all of the credit to the guys around me, the coaches. They have made the transition smooth for me from college. Someone is telling me something every play. Take these steps, do this better. I am always looking for that positive criticism. I literally get it every play on every day of the week.”
So far the 49ers selection of Eric Reid has shown to be the perfect match. He is in the best situation. He has a very good mentor in Donte Whitner. “I have to give credit to Donte especially because he has taken me under his wing and showed me how to be a professional safety.” The 49ers have an abundance of play makers on their defense. This keeps Reid from being forced to have all of the pressure on him. He has a very good positional coach in Ed Donatell. Donatell was actually at the airport to pick Reid up when the day after the draft. Vic Fangio is one of the better defensive coordinators when it comes to preparation. His tip sheets are said to be extremely informative about the opposing offense. The 49ers brought Reid along slowly throughout the preseason, but he is now ready to blossom into one of the better, more complete young safeties in the NFL today.