49ers position-by-position breakdown: Safeties

Matt Maiocco's 49ers Breakdown: Defensive Backs

49ers position-by-position breakdown: Safeties
July 22, 2013, 11:00 am
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The 49ers moved up 13 spots to select saftey Eric Reid with their first round pick. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Editor's note: Insider Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp. The rookies reported Friday, with the veterans scheduled to follow on Wednesday. Today, Matt focuses on the safeties.

Who they have: Donte Whitner, Eric Reid, Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson, Raymond Ventrone, Darcel McBath, Michael Thomas

Who they lost: Dashon Goldson

Looking back: The 49ers kept five safeties on the roster the entire season. Whitner and Goldson played nearly every snap. Spillman and McBath played very limited roles. Goldson earned first-team All-Pro honors. He and Whitner both were selected to the NFC Pro Bowl team. Goldson was an intimidating presence in the secondary both in coverage and flying up from the deep secondary in the run game. Whitner, who excelled as a box safety, was the 49ers' fourth-leading tackler. During the regular season, the coverage was very solid. But the safeties were as much to blame for the postseason woes as the pass rush and the corners.

Overall outlook: Whitner wondered last week on Twitter whether or not he will be back next season. He can control a certain amount of his own fate with his play this season and his contract demands. Whitner returns at strong safety. The big question mark is at the other safety spot, where Goldson's departure for Tampa Bay leaves a gaping hole in the team's secondary. The 49ers traded up 13 spots in the first round to select Reid. The 49ers had the former LSU standout rated as the No. 1 safety on their draft board, coach Jim Harbaugh said. The expectation for Reid is to immediately win the starting job. But he'll have to earn it in competition against Dahl, who started all 16 games for the St. Louis Rams last season.

Camp competition: Reid will get every chance to win the staring job over Dahl in training camp. The loser of that competition will likely be the first safety off the sideline. Special-teams contributions will determine the other spot(s) on the 53-man roster. Spillman should be a lock. Veterans Ventrone and McBath have solid special-teams backgrounds.