Rookie safety Eric Reid is still lining up with the first team defense in training camp.
This shows that head coach Jim Harbaugh believes that he is ready to not only start, but be a major factor on defense. Reid possesses a wide variety of skills to be very effective at both the strong and the free safety position. He has the versatility that veteran safety Donte Whitner is not known for. Reid can cover wide receivers and tight ends, tackle ball carriers in the open field, intercept the football and run it back effectively.
With Whitner being more of a lightweight linebacker than a coverage safety, he is easy pickings for a speedy slot receiver and taller and more athletic tight ends. Even though Reid would not be an unstoppable force, his skillset makes it much harder for him to be exploited in the open field.
Schematically Reid could cover runningbacks and slot receivers while All-Pro linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman can cover tight ends. Whitner can provide support to the cornerback who will cover the No. 1 receiver given his limited open field coverage skills.
If the San Francisco 49ers wanted to go with more coverage able defensive backs, they could start veteran cornerback and former safety Nnamdi Asomugha next to Reid. Though Reid excels in coverage and picking off quarterbacks, he was also known at Louisiana State University for delivering big hits. He will get his opportunity to fill the shoes of Dashon Goldson this season if he starts all season.