SANTA CLARA -- After coming off the field on passing downs for 11 snaps in the first half Sunday night, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman had some suggestions for the coaching staff.
Bowman exited the game when the 49ers deployed six defensive backs. Rookie Reuben Foster remained in the game, and safety Jaquiski Tartt took over in Bowman’s spot.
“At halftime he was giving me some good ideas of how to make that thing evolve even more,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “I love Bowman.”
Saleh said it’s “not set in stone” that Bowman will be on the sideline in the 49ers’ dime package in the future. It could be a game-to-game decision, based on what the 49ers’ coaching staff believe provides the better matchup against the opposition.
“That won’t be all the time,” Saleh said. “It’s preseason. We wanted to try some new things. Another opportunity to get the rookies some reps. I thought the package looked cool. It could easily be Bowman in there. It could be Reuben. They could rotate. Again, it’s our job to make sure that we get the best 11 on the field at all times.”
And, based on his suggestions at halftime, it’s safe to assume that Bowman believes he should be among the best 11 on the field for passing downs.
“Oh, yeah,” Saleh said. “He’s awesome. Every day he impresses me. The way he works, the way he takes care of his body, the way he operates day-to-day. There’s a reason why he is who he is and the reason why he’s had so much success. I would expect nothing less from him to want to be on there. We’ve just got to be creative and try to find a way. We have a good problem.”
The “good problem” has a lot to do with the coaching staff’s belief that Tartt is a good matchup against tight ends in pass coverage.
“At this point, I’m just trying to do whatever I can to get on the field,” Tartt said. “They’re going to ask a lot of things. I know for sure I’ll be covering tight ends, similar to what I did last year, and just flying around out there.”
The 49ers’ coverage of tight ends will be a major storyline in the first game of the season on Sept. 10 against the Carolina Panthers. Greg Olsen has accounted for more than 1,000 yards receiving in three consecutive seasons. Saleh said he is confident Bowman is still good in coverage but the package shown on Sunday is a testament to Tartt's skills.
“Could you still see that same group in Carolina? You could,” Saleh said. “Could you see it with Bowman? You could. It just depends on the things that we need to do to put our guys in the best position to be successful.”