49ers safety Eric Reid has been one of the top performers on the 49ers defense so far as he seems to be finding first-year defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil's system to his liking.
Reid praised O'Neil's system heading into the season, calling it the best he's been a part of. Through three games under O'Neil, Reid has 21 tackles and 1 pass defensed and is currently ranked as the NFL's No. 6 safety by ProFootballFocus.com after being ranked first overall following Week 2.
Reid's ability is something O'Neil and head coach Chip Kelly noticed quickly, after which they decided to use him in creative ways.
"You kind of knew after just a couple days here that he had that versatility to be able to play in multiple spots for you and that really has helped us,” Kelly said earlier this month.
O'Neil said after Week 1 that the 49ers planned on using him all over the defense, including defensive end.
“We’ll go through this season and Eric Reid, when it’s all said and done, will play probably both safety spots, nickel, he’ll play some dime backer, he’ll play some defensive end," O'Neil said. "We’re just starting with him.”
That's ambitious, but that's the type of talent O'Neil thinks Reid is.
"I’m trying to think of all the safeties I’ve coached, he’s probably one of the bigger ones," O'Neil said. "He’s got rare athletic ability. He’s got rare coverage ability. But, the thing about Eric is he’s so smart and he’s such a gym rat, football junkie... He’s into it. He puts out a lot of pre-snap fires. So, it’s not just the stuff that he can do when the ball is snapped. It’s the stuff he does for us pre-snap which is pretty special also.”
For Reid, it's been a fun change. He told 49ers.com this month that safety is still his first love, but he's finding other positions to his liking as well.
"I'm in a bunch of different positions, which is exciting," Reid said. "I get to change it up a little bit. I love playing safety; obviously, that's what I was drafted to do. It's fun when you get to -- imagine the quarterback playing receiver? It's just different. It's a change up, and I like doing it."
Kirk Larrabee | sfo.247sports.com | September 27, 2016