Safety Jaquiski Tartt started eight games as a rookie, but returned to a backup and specialty role in the 49ers’ sub packages this season.
But Eric Reid’s season-ending torn biceps has once again opened the door for Tartt, a second-round pick from Samford in 2015, to finish the season as an every-down player. Tartt became a starter last year when Antoine Bethea sustained a season-ending injury.
“Last year I got to play with E-Reid and that was a good opportunity to pick his brain a little bit,” Tartt said. “This year, I have AB, so I get to pick his brain.”
Tartt’s first start as a 49ers base safety will take place Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, as he will be entrusted to limit running back Jay Ajayi and defend against quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The 49ers' two safety positions are interchangeable, so Tartt said there will be no transition to learning a new position.
“He’s got great range and ball skills,” 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “He’s got a knack for reading the quarterback. He’s played a lot of football for us this year and he filled in and did a great job last year when Antoine Bethea went out.”
Tartt had a strong game last week against the New England Patriots. His main assignment was to cover tight end Martellus Bennett, who ended up with one catch for 14 yards.
“How many ever snaps we played, I was usually on him,” Tartt said. “I think he caught one ball, but that was on E-Reid.”
Said O’Neil, “He’s obviously a physical guy that you can get down in the run game and make plays in the box. He’s had some really nice blitzes for us this year. . . He’s got a great NFL skillset.”
Tartt has seen significant action in every game in which he has played this season. He missed the 49ers’ game at Buffalo in Week 5 due to a quadriceps strain.
“He’s played a ton of football for us,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “So, yeah, he’s ready to go.”
And Tartt said he feels a lot more comfortable in his second season than when a year ago when his number was called.
“Going through last year, my rookie season, it kind of prepared me for this year,” Tartt said. “I always have that mindset of just preparing as if starting. I’ve been doing that since Week 1, since the season started, so it’s no big deal.”
When asked where he expected to be better, Tartt answered, “In every phase of the game, just my overall awareness and seeing plays better, reacting faster to the ball.”