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.”
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.”