Safety Eric Reid had some big shoes to fill when he stepped foot on the field for the San Francisco 49ers. The free safety, who the 49ers moved up 13 slots in the 2013 NFL draft to select, was replacing two-time Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson on the back end of the San Francisco defense. To the credit of both the 49ers’ talent evaluators and Reid himself, the rookie looked like a veteran from Week 1.
Reid was a stabilizing force and finished second on the team with four interceptions while also defending 11 passes. He recorded 77 tackles, which was good for 3rd on the 49ers behind only NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis.
Some of the reason for Reid’s success was in no doubt due to him being part of a veteran unit that included fellow safety Donte Whitner and cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. However, as Reid enters 2014, he finds himself having started more games as a 49er than any other player in the secondary after only one season in the league. As the de facto leader of the group, is Reid ready to take on the added responsibilities?
The signing of safety Antoine Bethea will help Reid grow into his role and give him a steady presence by his side on the back end of the defense. Bethea has been in the league for eight years and started all 16 games in each of the last six seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Bethea has has also been to two Super Bowls, so he knows how to rise to the big stage.
Where Reid doesn’t have a veteran presence to pair with is at cornerback. The 49ers will send out Tramaine Brock (seven career regular season starts) and a lot of unknowns. They will be forced to rely on Chris Culliver, who missed 2013 with a knee injury, as well as Perrish Cox, Eric Wright and Chris Cook.
None of those names inspire much confidence. Even if/when a rookie or two are added to the depth chart, Reid will still be looked to as an elder statesmen within the group. The 49ers will hope that Reid continues to grow in his role and can build off of his positive rookie season. If he takes a step back, or is lost for an extended period due to injury, it could mean disaster for the San Francisco secondary.