The rookie free safety was selected No. 18 overall and groomed by the defending NFC Champions to be a starter in his rookie season. The 49ers traded up to select Reid, a promising safety out of LSU.
They didn’t hand Reid the job either.
Reid had to earn the right to replace outgoing two-time Pro Bowler, Dashon Goldson, a standout defender for Sunday’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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Without ever meeting, Goldson was a teacher to the 49ers rookie.
When Reid arrived at 49ers headquarters last April, the incoming safety immediately began watching game tape of San Francisco’s defense. In those film sessions, the 49ers coaches put on the tape of Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme. Goldson was a big part of those clips, too.
“We watched some coaching tape and (Goldson) would pop up on the coaching tape from time to time,” Reid said on Wednesday. “They would say, ‘We’d like you to play this technique like this or like that.’”
Reid has since stepped into the 49ers lineup and has enjoyed a big season. He’s also performed very much like Goldson, a game-changer and ball-hawking defensive back.
“I have studied him a little bit in that aspect, but it goes back to me trying to be the best safety I can be,” the rookie said.
Reid understands the comparisons will be at an all-time high with Goldson on the other sideline in Week 15.
“I think he's done a tremendous job for the 49ers,” said Goldson, a seventh-year pro, who has 57 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble with the Buccaneers.
“He's really good, a raw talent, going to be good for years to come. He just has to stay healthy.”
Reid deserves his own spotlight this week. He’s the only NFC player with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, plus he's fourth on San Francisco's defense with 48 tackles.
Reid credits the mentorships of
“He’s been consistent throughout the whole year as far as helping me see things, helping me with the defense,” Reid said of Whitner. “He knows it like the back of his hand. If I make a mistake, he helps me out. If he sees something on film, he’ll say, ‘Look for this, look for that.’”
San Francisco’s free safety is the first rookie to start a regular season opener on either side of the ball in the Jim Harbaugh era.
Since that debut, Reid has smartened up throughout the regular season. Although he’s had to learn from two concussions from jarring open-field tackle attempts, Reid has improved from his on-field encounters.
“I recognize things a lot more,” the rookie said. “Before the play is snapped, I’m taking in as much information as I can about the offense. I see what the personnel is, what formation they’re in and that goes back to the film study with Donte.
“I think the biggest jump has been the pre-snap mental aspect of the game. After that, it’s just playing and trusting what you see.”
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Because of who he’s playing with, Reid doesn’t feel burdened at all.
“It actually makes it easier for me,” the rookie said. “When you have those types of guys doing their job, it allows me to just do my job. I can focus on what I have to do and I know they’re going to do what they have to do because they’re All-Pro, Pro Bowlers.
“I’ve been able to focus on me and make sure I can handle my part on the field and everything else takes care of itself.”
Reid’s focus this week is to defend Tampa Bay’s emerging passing game. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has been able to connect with veteran receiver Vincent Jackson down the field in recent weeks.
“They have a deep threat,” Reid said. “We have to take care of that in the secondary and we have to get pressure on their quarterback. They’re on a hot streak right now and we’ve just got to do our job and keep points off the board.”
Reid's consistent play should earn him NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year attention. Although most members of the media have not mentioned Reid's name just yet, he deserves to be in the conversation.
Reid is ninth among rookies in tackles. He's also in a five-way tie for second place in interceptions and is tied for first in fumble recoveries.
"I’m not really worried about that," Reid said of postseason award consideration. "It’s a compliment to win that, but I’m just focused on helping this team win games. I’m sure winning a Super Bowl would be a lot better than winning Defensive Rookie of the Year."
Reid and the 49ers on a hot streak of their own, winning three in a row. That being said, the rookie safety continues to keep working and doesn’t need any extra attention.
The Goldson comparisons are enough.