SANTA CLARA – Jaquiski Tartt’s rookie season has likely come to an end after eight starts in place of injured 49ers veteran strong safety Antoine Bethea.
The 49ers list Tartt as doubtful for Sunday’s season finale against the St. Louis Rams at Levi’s Stadium due to a knee injury that kept him off the practice field this week.
The injury will not require surgery, he said, and he expects to come back bigger, faster, stronger, smarter and more skilled for his second NFL season.
“I got a taste of what the NFL life is like, what NFL football is like, and I know how to prepare myself more in the offseason,” said Tartt, whom the 49ers selected in the second round of the 2015 draft from Samford.
“I’m real hard on myself. I feel like I was inconsistent. I made some plays, but I was still inconsistent and made a lot of rookie mistakes.”
Tartt’s most glaring errors this season were in the skill of tackling. Despite his good size (6 foot, 221 pounds), Tartt had a large number of would-be tackles slip through his grasp. He committed 13 missed tackles on the season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tartt said his issues with tackling were a case of too often going for the crushing blow rather than just wrapping up and securing the stop.
“Being a little too aggressive sometimes,” he said. “Always trying to go for the big hit rather than just making the play.
“My coach, he was on me about it at Samford, too. Sometimes I’d get in the mode where I’d want to make a big hit, and sometimes I just need to be smarter.”
With Tartt out of the lineup for the finale, it opens the door for 2014 first-round pick Jimmie Ward to get his first NFL regular-season action at safety. Ward, who had a solid season as the 49ers’ nickel back, will take over at strong safety in place of Tartt, his former high-school teammate from Mobile, Alabama.
“I expect the quarterback (St. Louis’ Case Keenum) to look at me the majority of the time and see if I’m going to give a look away because it’s my first time playing safety if he hears about it. I’m pretty sure he’ll hear about it,” Ward said.
“I feel like a lot of reads are going to be off me. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to try me and take a couple shots.”