While organizing my notes from 49ers practice on Thursday, I narrowed down the defensive play of the day to two possibilities.
One was a Tarvarius Moore interception of a Jimmy Garoppolo pass in the end zone. The other was a play that Moore ranged from the middle of the field to the left sideline to break up a deep Garoppolo throw intended for tight end George Kittle.
Moore has arrived as a free safety, and he was the subject of several questions for this edition of 49ers Mailbag, as the team opened the exhibition season on Saturday at 6 p.m. against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium:
-I predict that Tarvarius Moore will be named a starting safety by the end of training camp. What are your thoughts? (Patrick Tulini)
-Why is there any question that Tarvarius Moore is the starter? (Joseph B Ryder)
-I asked earlier in the year is it possible for Tarvarius Moore to start at safety you had previously told me you didn’t think so. What do you think now between him and Adrian Colbert? (Joseph Foster)
Moore has passed Colbert on the depth chart. That is not a surprise. After all, we all knew Moore was a talented athlete and the 49ers thought highly enough of him to invest a third-round pick in him in the 2018 draft. He is back at his natural position after spending his entire rookie season at cornerback.
When 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said early in camp that Moore was a long way from being an NFL starter, he was not talking about his physical skills. Moore still has a lot to learn about the position and NFL offenses. The free safety – the eraser – has to be on-point with his assignments. If he blows an assignment, it's six points.
That is why I continue to believe Jimmie Ward will be the 49ers’ starter when the regular season opens. But I also believe Moore is just one play away from stepping onto the field with the first-team defense.
-What’s the deal with Dante Pettis? Is he a true number 1? (Daniel Flores)
-Is Deebo beating out Pettis? (Thomas Alvarez)
-What are your thoughts on Jalen Hurd and how do you feel he could fit into the O? Slot? Outside the numbers? (Philip Withers)
The 49ers do not have a No. 1 receiver. Let’s clear that up right now.
Could Pettis or Deebo Samuel eventually become a No. 1? Perhaps. But, right now, I’m not sure the 49ers have a classic No. 2, either. They might have a bunch of 2.5s and 3s. That’s OK. Coach Kyle Shanahan should be able to work with that.
Pettis has been solid in training camp. I would not classify him as a disappointment. But he should be stepping up and making more plays. That was clearly the expectation for him after last season. Pettis needs to play with more urgency and aggression. That is why rookies Samuel and Jalen Hurd have stood out on the practice field. Both play the game hard.
Samuel plays the X, and Pettis plays the Z. So those two are not necessarily in competition, other than competing for the attention of the quarterback on every play. Samuel has put together a very promising camp.
Hurd is really coming on strong. When camp began, I thought Hurd would make the team but he might be inactive for the entire season as he learns how to become an NFL wide receiver. But the guy has a certain nastiness (in a good way) and determination to him that could enable him to become a significant player from Week 1. Hurd can be used in a variety of ways, both outside and in the slot, which gives Shanahan more flexibility to exploit matchups.
As camp opened, I expressed the opinion that slot man Trent Taylor would be the team’s leading wide receiver – at least when it comes to the number of receptions. I stand firm in that belief.
-Who is going to get the most time at RB? (Khalil Cox)
If you’re talking about the regular season, Tevin Coleman.
If you’re talking about tonight and the entire exhibition season, no question that person is undrafted rookie Austin Walter of Rice.
There’s no reason for the 49ers to subject Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert to unnecessary risks. And Jerick McKinnon certainly will not see any action in the exhibition season.
-How is Kentavius Street looking and might he have a role this year? (Jeff Bratton)
Street looks pretty good, but so does just about every defensive lineman on the team. Street will be on the 53-man roster, but it is going to be difficult for him to earn a spot in the rotation during the regular season.
-How are the book sales doing for LETTERS TO 87? (Evan Holm)
Things are looking great, and thank you for asking. The early numbers are so promising that there is already going to be a second printing.
For more information about the book – such as how to buy it and upcoming book events – check out LettersTo87.com. I appreciate all your support. And, remember, 100 percent of all royalties from the book go to the Golden Heart Fund.
It was great to meet Brian Du, whose letter about his father, a POW for 10 years after Saigon fell, deeply touched Dwight Clark. Brian’s inspiring words are in #LettersTo87. pic.twitter.com/qqgLf3t7wK— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) August 10, 2019