Tarvarius Moore ready to challenge for 49ers' starting free safety job

Tarvarius Moore ready to challenge for 49ers' starting free safety job

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Four days into training camp, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh offered a stark assessment of Tarvarius Moore's short-term possibilities.

“He’s by no means even close to being an NFL-ready safety by Week 1,” Saleh said.

Two weeks later, Moore is getting noticeably closer to being capable of holding down a key role in the 49ers’ defense for the start of the regular season.

“He’s made tremendous strides from just getting aligned, being more vocal, giving out alerts, talking to the linebackers, talking to the safeties, talking to the corners, even talking to the D-Line which he has to do at safety,” Saleh said of Moore on Friday after the 49ers’ joint practice with the Denver Broncos. “ ... He hasn’t scratched the ceiling yet, so he’s got to continue working. Every single rep there’s something new for him and he’s definitely going in the right direction, so I’m pumped for him.”

The 49ers are taking their time bringing along Jimmie Ward after he fractured his collarbone during the offseason program in June. Two weeks ago, Moore moved past Adrian Colbert on the depth chart at free safety. Now, he has put himself in position to supplant Ward, too.

Moore was a third-round draft pick from Southern Mississippi in 2018. He spent his entire rookie season at cornerback before moving back to safety following Ward’s injury.

On Wednesday, he intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo twice during a three-play sequence. On Friday, he intercepted Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco on a pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders.

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Ward has been cleared to return to practice, but the 49ers are bringing him back slowly. His time as a spectator has allowed Moore an opportunity to open some eyes. And Moore certainly is giving the 49ers’ coaching staff something to think about.

“It’s definitely something to talk about,” Saleh said. “Tarvarius had the door open. We always talk about, if you get your foot in the door, it’s your job to blow that thing open. He’s doing a good job. He’s going to make it very difficult.”

How 49ers trading for Emmanuel Sanders has helped rookie Deebo Samuel

How 49ers trading for Emmanuel Sanders has helped rookie Deebo Samuel

The 49ers' offense has gone to a whole new level since acquiring veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the Broncos for two future draft picks. 

Sanders came to San Francisco on Oct. 22, five days before the 49ers' Week 8 matchup against the Panthers. He caught a touchdown in his team debut, and the 49ers scored 51 points. Not a bad start. 

Since adding Sanders to the offense, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has completed 70.4 percent of his pass attempts for 1,931 yards, 18 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions the last seven games. It's safe to say the QB enjoys having a sure-handed receiver. Sanders has 28 receptions for 407 yards receiving and three touchdowns. 

While Garoppolo and Sanders have found an instant connection, the trade clearly benefitted a 49ers rookie, too. Deebo Samuel has seen his numbers soar in recent weeks. 

Samuel ranks 10th in the NFL in receptions (32) since the trade and ninth in yards (472). He also has scored three touchdowns -- two receiving and one rushing. 

The 49ers' second-round pick from last April's draft is just one of four rookie wideouts to have at least 600 receiving yards. He has 640 on the year, but his only two games with over 100 yards receiving have come after the Sanders trade. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan finally has a trio of receivers he can trust in Sanders, Samuel and second-year pro Kendrick Bourne. With Sanders on board, Samuel now is a dangerous No. 2 who teams sometimes forget about, but have to fear. 

[RELATED: Jimmy G becomes first 49ers QB to win POTW since 2012]

Despite the 49ers adding Sanders, Samuel has seen his targets go up the last seven weeks. Samuel was averaging 4.4 targets per game before the trade, and now is seeing an average of 6.4 targets per game. 

The rookie receiver surely is taking notes watching the veteran, and the two have formed a duo that opposing teams can't take lightly. 

49ers fear top nose tackle D.J. Jones out for season with ankle injury

49ers fear top nose tackle D.J. Jones out for season with ankle injury

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers absorbed another big loss from their exciting victory in New Orleans on Sunday, as starting nose tackle D.J. Jones sustained a “significant” ankle injury, coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday.

Shanahan said the 49ers are bracing to lose Jones for the remainder of the season. Jones started all 11 games in which he appeared this season. He has recorded 23 tackles and two sacks.

“We’re worried about it,” Shanahan said. “We’ll wait on some other opinions and stuff, but it’s a pretty significant one.”

The 49ers could activate defensive lineman Kentavius Street from injured reserve. He began practicing with the club last week after going on IR before the first game of the regular season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Street was a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2018 from North Carolina State. He missed his entire rookie season with an ACL injury.

“It feel great,” Street said. ‘Just knocking some rust off, just making sure my tools are as sharp as they can be. But besides that, I feel great. . . Oh, yeah. I could run through a wall right now.”

In Jones’ absence, the 49ers can turn to Solomon Thomas or Sheldon Day to start at nose tackle, with DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead also capable of playing different spots on the defensive line.

“He’s irreplaceable,” Buckner said. “D.J. is explosive. He can really hurt you in the run game and you saw his pass-rush skills. He just goes right through people. He’s a really good D-lineman, and he’s going to be one of the guys who’s really missed.

“Everybody has to kick up their game a notch.”

The 49ers placed two offensive players on season-ending injured reserve this week. Center Weston Richburg sustained a torn patellar tendon in the victory over the Saints. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is out with knee and ankle issues.

“That’s December football,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “Everyone across the league has that, dealing with injuries. But it’s just when guys get their number called, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams, guys who haven’t even played that much, they’re just ready for the moment. And so you got to appreciate that.

“I think you got to give our coaches a lot of credit for getting those ready in practice, the behind-the-scenes stuff and it’s starting to pay off now.”

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have built enough depth on the team over the past three seasons to be able to withstand a lot of injuries. That depth will be needed more than ever, with defensive end Dee Ford and cornerback Richard Sherman also expected to miss time with injuries.

“(With) John and Kyle, the past couple years have been really hard,” Buckner said. “We’ve been rebuilding, obviously. Just to have that patience to (build) that depth that we have now, it’s working out for us.”

[RELATED: Falcons coach defends Shanahan's play-calling in Super Bowl]

Practice participation

The following players are not scheduled to practice on Wednesday:

DE Dee Ford (hamstring)
DT D.J. Jones (ankle)
CB Richard Sherman (hamstring)
SS Jaquiski Tartt (ribs)
DT Jullian Taylor (elbow)
CB K’Waun Williams (concussion)