How 49ers rookie defensive back D.J. Reed turned his season around


How 49ers rookie defensive back D.J. Reed turned his season around

SANTA CLARA — Rookie defensive back D.J. Reed has turned his season around by playing fast and using his instincts. He is making the most of the valuable reps he’s going to get in the final two games of the season. 

It was just a month ago when Reed reluctantly spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area after a practice. He was disappointed with his progress in his first season and explained that he was his own toughest critic. Reed explained what was going through his mind at the time. 

“I just wasn’t really happy how I was playing throughout the whole year on special teams and on defense,” Reed said. “And then I got my chance.” 

Fast forward a few weeks later, all of Reed’s hard work paid off in a breakout game in the 49ers win over the Broncos. He registered 10 solo tackles and two tackle assists, three of which were for a loss. He also recorded the first sack and forced fumble of his NFL career. 

“The Denver game was my best game by far,” Reed said. “Seahawks, I thought I played OK. And we ended up winning as well so we’ve been doing good since the last time we talked. Obviously we won, which was the most important thing. And obviously it feels good knowing you contributed to a win.” 

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman has been a valuable mentor and leader to everyone in the young secondary. Reed took Sherman's advice to heart: think less, play faster. 

“I feel like when I started doing that, things started to happen, good things started to happen for me," Reed said. "I feel like our defense is starting to do that. Communicating more, flying around. 

“Even though we’re not getting the ball yet, we’re still getting crucial stops, making big plays and we’re a good third down defense. We’re doing a lot of good things, we just got to get the ball.” 

Things have clearly turned around not only for Reed, but also the entire Niners defense. The rookie explained that the demoralizing 43-16 loss in Seattle on Dec. 2 may have had an effect on the entire team. 

“Obviously they blew us out,” Reed said. “I feel like that was just a wake up call. What they did to us. They embarrassed us, so I just feel like after that I feel like as a defensive unit we all just came together after that.” 

[RELATED: 49ers have nearly everyone healthy ahead of Bears game]

One thing that Reed says has helped his productivity is getting more consistent reps in live games. Similar to fellow rookies Marcell Harris and Tarvarius Moore, Reed has been getting valuable playing time, coming in for injured K’Waun Williams. 

“I feel like that’s the best way to learn,” Reed said. “You can always chalk it up on the board, but if you’re not out there, then you’re not going to know how fast to do things. You just have to go out there and learn for yourself. You got to get thrown out there in the fire and see how you perform.” 

What does Reed want from the remainder of his rookie season? 

“We have to make the most out of the situation. We have to make the best out of our last two games. Just taking advantage of every rep is what I’m trying to do.” 

49ers UDFAs Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty making most of odd offseason

49ers UDFAs Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty making most of odd offseason

Salvon Ahmed and JaMycal Hasty were always going to face an uphill battle to make the 49ers' roster, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made the hill a little steeper.

Under normal circumstances, the 49ers' undrafted free agents would have a chance to make a good first impression on the field at rookie minicamp. That's how Matt Breida won his roster spot in 2017. But instead, Hasty and Ahmed spend four hours on Zoom meetings with their position group and coaches, trying to learn everything about the 49ers' offense. The first two hours are spent with the entire group, while the final two hours are just Ahmed, Hasty and undrafted fullback Josh Hokit with assistant coach Bobby Turner.

While it's been unusual, the rookies think it's been a productive start to their NFL careers.

“You don’t have to worry about practices, you don’t have to worry about anything but that one, four-hour window to meet,” Hasty told The Athletic's Matt Barrows. “So there are a lot of things you can cover. There’s a ton of information to learn and pick up on. I mean, the rookies help each other out, the vets bring us along. It’s been a great experience, man.”

The 49ers have built a strong culture and that plays a big role in helping new blood catch up to the rest of the group.

“I think it’s showing what it’d be like even if we were there,” Ahmed told The Athletic. “And I think the culture is strong enough to show through our Zoom meetings. I think how we’re acting now is definitely how everyone would act if we were at the facility.”

The 49ers are likely to carry five running backs in total between the active roster and practice squad. Pencil in Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman for two of those spots. Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, Ahmed and Hasty will have to battle for the final three spots, with McKinnon and Wilson likely having a leg up.

The final roster spot likely will come down to a position battle between Ahmed and Hasty.

Ahmed, 5-foot-11, 197-pounds, never became the game-breaking back he was projected to be when he committed to Washington out of high school. He has quick feet and can be explosive, but he needs to work on his vision and decisiveness to stick in the NFL.

As for Hasty, the Baylor product was misused during his time in Waco, Texas. He's an elite athlete who profiles as a third-down back who can uncover out of the backfield and make plays in the passing game. He's a tough, hard-nosed back who has the explosiveness to fit well in the 49ers' zone-rushing scheme. He's an electric, change-of-pace back who has the potential to morph into a dynamic weapon for coach Kyle Shanahan.

[RELATED: Nine 49ers facing make-or-break season in 2020]

The 49ers might be able to hold a full-squad minicamp in June if Governor Gavin Newsom allows it. That will be the first time Ahmed and Hasty will take the field as 49ers. They must make the most of every opportunity in order to make the roster.

They've already been doing that in the Zoom classroom. The field world comes next.

NFL Network's Adam Rank goes all-in on 49ers after bad 2019 prediction

NFL Network's Adam Rank goes all-in on 49ers after bad 2019 prediction

Not many would have expected the success the 49ers gave us last season. Well, at least one guy in particular.

NFL Network analyst Adam Rank might be the main person to eat his words following his prediction of the team going 3-13. But he's redeemed himself. 

The Super Bowl LIV runners-up obviously were more successful than that going 13-3, however. He heard it all from 49ers fans, even admitting he was an idiot for saying such a thing

Rank wrote on NFL.com that not only are the 49ers becoming one of the league’s “model organizations,” but walking away from Miami didn’t mean they were out of the fight -- not even a little bit.

The 2020 season will bring back tight end George Kittle who looks to be the highest-paid at the position in NFL history, a Super Bowl appearance as a starter by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa looks to have another successful season and we get to see the freakishly athletic ability of rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

That’s just what’s happening on the field.

Rank praised the front office possessing general manager John Lynch on part of that success as well. 

Rank knows that any team could face a post-championship hangover that not even the strongest of Gatorade could cure. Their expectations are high, but this team is the real deal -- and naturally, they’ll have a target on their backs. But Rank’s done doubting, but said he understands if people don’t believe him.

[RELATED: Richard Sherman wants 49ers detractors to keep doubting them]

“I know me praising the 49ers will make the fans uneasy,” Rank told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday. “Like whenever Ric Flair would cozy up to Sting. And as much as you'd like me to discredit them again, we don't have to resort to such tricks because this is a very good team. Though I don't blame you if you don't trust me.”

He said it, he’s a believer. Now, let’s give the guy a break.