Jaquiski Tartt will be the 49ers’ top free safety against the Panthers Sunday, the seventh straight game he has started at the position.
Last year a late-season biceps tear to Eric Reid forced Tartt, a former second-round draft pick, into the lineup and he started the last six contests.
The position has changed significantly this season, however. The 49ers use what is called a single-high free safety, which means that player often is alone deep in the secondary and is responsible for all the action deep and medium in the middle of the field.
Reid plays strong safety, which often lines up close to the line of scrimmage.
Tartt started at free safety in the 49ers' third preseason game, the most important warm-up to the season. However, he suffered a rib injury early in camp. Coupled with regular starter Jimmie Ward's hamstring issue, it meant that undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome received most of the practice and preseason work at free safety this summer.
Jerome is in uniform and could enter in dime packages. Another option is seventh-round draft pick Adrian Colbert, who also is in uniform for the game.