SANTA CLARA — 49ers rookie safety Marcell Harris says now that he has gotten into the swing of things, his learning curve is no longer as steep.
Harris explained that, after missing his senior season in Florida after an Achilles injury, it was a big step to get his first start at Century Link FIeld on Dec. 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.
“After I got my feet wet in that game,” Harris said, “I kind of knew what I was stepping into, knowing how the game was going to move, and knowing what I was going to be in, alignments and everything. After that it’s downhill from there.”
Harris, like many of the younger members of the 49ers secondary, has been sent into play in a “trial by fire” situation. Since his first start in Seattle in Week 13, he has played every defensive snap and some on special teams.
The rookie had a challenging start, missing three tackles and allowing a reception in the team’s loss in Seattle but has improved with more play just as defensive coordinator Robert Saleh suggested he would.
Harris redeemed himself in his second game, registering seven total tackles against the Denver Broncos -- two of which were for a loss. In the 49ers' win over Seattle on Sunday, he racked up six solo tackles, one for a loss.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said Harris’ growth over three starts is clear.
“He was definitely much better this game than he was versus Seattle the original time. I thought he took it the right direction versus Denver and I thought it continued yesterday.
“Definitely a few plays he’s like to have back, so by no means was it perfect, but what I like about him is he competes. Even when he does mess up, he’s doing it full speed and doesn’t mind tackling. He throws his body around.”
Harris’ development also impressed veteran cornerback Richard Sherman. He compared the rookie’s two starts against his former team.
“This time guys were ready,” Sheman said. “Guys were prepared. It wasn’t Marcell’s first game anymore, he played his tail off.”
It was a collective team win over the division rival Seahawks, and Shanahan highlighted one of Harris’ most important plays.
“He made a really key play on a screen,” Shanahan said. “I think it was a second and long where they had a good play call. They had a screen on us and and thee-by-one versus a pressure, so there was only one guy left.
“It was Marcell with lead blockers and he did a good job. I think he tackled him for a six-yard gain when if he doesn’t do that it probably would have been a 50-yard gain.”
When asked what has changed since the team’s blowout loss in Seattle, Harris said he thinks that the 49ers are just playing to their potential, and that it will carry over to next season.
“The defense has always been top-tier,” Harris said. “We just need to keep finishing and stacking this wins. There’s no telling how far we can go.”