Jaquiski Tartt will replace the injured Eric Reid at safety for the rest of the 49ers’ season, but several players must deliver to compensate for Reid’s absence, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said Tuesday.
That’s because the 49ers have used the fourth-year safety, known for his smarts, in an array of roles this year, including as a nickel cornerback, a linebacker and even a defensive end. Reid tore his right biceps tendon Sunday against New England.
“His leadership, his versatility, his playmaking ability will leave us with an obvious void,” said O’Neil, whose defense will be tested Sunday against Miami. “But it will be a great opportunity for some other guys to step up and fill those roles.”
Tartt is perhaps the more athletic of the two, and he filled in last year for the other veteran starter, Antoine Bethea, who was lost for the season in Week 7. Tartt’s playing time also has increased in recent weeks against pass-heavy offenses. He logged 25 snaps against New Orleans, 28 against Arizona and 26 against New England.
One of his main roles Sunday was covering Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, who finished with one catch for 14 yards.
“I think that’s one thing he does a good job of,” O’Neil said of Tartt’s man-to-man coverage. “He’s obviously a physical guy. He can get down in the run game and make plays in the box. … He’s got a great NFL skill set.”
O’Neil said Dontae Johnson, who was drafted as a cornerback in 2014, will be the No. 3 safety. Another cornerback-safety hybrid, Marcus Cromartie, will be the No. 4 safety.
The 49ers also promoted safety Vinnie Sunseri, a special-teams standout for the Saints in 2014, from the practice squad to the active roster and added a safety, Marcus Ball, to their practice squad.
O’Neil said the team isn’t considering Jimmie Ward, a safety in college, at the position.
“I think Jimmie Ward is a corner in our system,” O’Neil said.
Extra points – NFL kickers missed 12 extra points in Week 11, including New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, who missed his third extra-point attempt of the season early in his team’s win over the 49ers.
That leaves just nine kickers, including San Francisco’s Phil Dawson and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, who are perfect on extra points this season. Overall, kickers have missed 48 PATs. Strangely, those same kickers are 44 of 45 on field goals from 32-33 yards, per ESPN, the same distance as extra points.
Et cetera – Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who was limping badly in practice last week as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain suffered last month, was moving better Tuesday but still is not back to full speed. His understudy, Eli Harold, did not practice Tuesday because of a bothersome foot injury that had him limping.
▪ Ward is in the NFL’s post-concussion program and was on an exercise cycle as Tuesday’s practice began. If he can’t play Sunday against the Dolphins, Rashard Robinson and Tramaine Brock would start at cornerback.
▪ Wide receiver Torrey Smith (shoulder) was in a blue, no-contact jersey during Tuesday’s practice. Smith, who did not practice at this time last week, missed the first game of his six-year career Sunday. Defensive lineman Quinton Dial, who has been dealing with knee and neck injuries in recent weeks, did not practice. Left tackle Joe Staley did not practice Tuesday, which may be the 32-year-old veteran’s routine for the rest of the season.