In April, the 49ers surprised many draft experts by moving up in the first round to take LSU safety Eric Reid.
General manager Trent Baalke saw Reid as a hard hitter and a player who seemed to make big plays in big games.
“He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s a physical football player and we really felt he was an all-around safety,” Baalke told the media at the time. Reid, said Baalke, “Played the type of ball that we wanted to see out of a safety.”
After his NFL regular-season debut Sunday in the 49ers’ victory over the Packers, Reid indeed appears to be a playmaker.
Reid had six tackles, a pass breakup and one interception – with another one negated by an offside penalty – in San Francisco’s 34-28 victory over Green Bay.
Plus, Reid made his presence felt with some of those big hits he was known for in college, and a nice open-field, one-on-one tackle of Green Bay’s Randall Cobb.
In his debut as the replacement for departed free agent Dashon Goldson, Reid actually played as physical – or even more physical – than Goldson.
Tweeted the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows, after a Reid tackle on Packers scrambling quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the second half: “I know Dashon Goldson was known as a hard hitter. Eric Reid, however, looked like he was shot from a Howitzer on that last tackle of Rodgers.”
Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh was happy with what he saw, but also believes Reid can play better.
“He made some fine tackles, some open-field tackles, some physical tackles and missed a few as well and that’s something we need to improve on as an entire defense,” he told reporters.
Reid’s biggest play came when he scooped up a tipped ball before it hit the ground for his first interception as a 49er. He then got up and scooted about 40 yards toward the Green Bay end zone. But the return was called back when it was ruled Reid had been touched when he first went to the turf after catching the ball. Later, Reid outfought Cobb for a ball in the end zone in a play that was called back when linebacker Aldon Smith was ruled to have crossed the line of scrimmage before the snap.
Reid said he was just happy to contribute to a 49ers win, which sets up an NFC West matchup this Sunday night against the Seahawks in Seattle (who also won their first game, over Carolina).
“It sets the tone for the whole season by going up against one of the best quarterbacks in the entire world,” Reid told the Bay Area media. “It is great to come out with a victory. I am looking forward to next week and continuing to get better.”
Reid’s fellow starting safety, Donte Whitner, was impressed by Reid’s play against the Packers.
“The game didn’t seem too big for him,” Whitner told 49ers.com. “I guess that’s playing at LSU. He made all the right calls and he was a fierce hitter out there.”
Added cornerback Tarell Brown, to Barrows: “We’re really excited about him and the things he can do back there and his range as far as tracking the ball and coming up and hitting and being aggressive.”