A Safety Emerges: Tarvarius Moore on track to start for 49ers

The 49ers in 2018 drafted Tarvarius Moore in the third round to play “cornerback”? Yes.

Former Niners defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley was hell-bent on making Moore a corner – a not-so-natural position switch for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound defensive back who was twice timed running as fast as a 4.32-40 at his pro day.

The 49ers must not have consulted with Moore’s former head coach Jay Hopson from Southern Miss, who as a guest on The 49ers Studio Podcast with Joe Fann, suggested the best position for Moore would be single-high safety.

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After an experimental season at cornerback and a Jimmie Ward broken clavicle, Moore found himself back at safety and it didn’t take long for him to feel back at home. He made plays on the ball to close out OTAs – something the 49ers struggled with immensely during the 2018 season – and he carried that into training camp.

That playmaking ability has made it hard for coaches to keep him off the field with the 1s; not to mention, Adrian Colbert hasn’t made a case for himself.

Coordinator Robert Saleh first tried to temper expectations of Moore, saying “he is not an NFL safety.” But that only made him more determined to speed up his learning curve. Moore’s first NFL start at safety came in a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. He tallied three total tackles and affected the game at each level, both versus the run and pass. Here you can see Moore flying around against Dallas, coming up for run support and patrolling the secondary against the pass.

Moore getting a jump on the seam route helping over the top of Emmanuel Moseley.

Moore walling off the post receiver in man coverage after the 49ers sent slot defender Moseley on a blitz.

Moore flying up from a deep third safety position to help in run support. Following the Cowboys game, Moore continued to make plays, picking off quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for a third time during training camp in the red zone. The 49ers then headed out to Englewood, Colorado for joint practices with the Broncos where it was reported Moore picked off veteran quarterback Joe Flacco and returned it for a touchdown.

After practice, Moore addressed his transition back, and his overall comfort level between the two positions San Francisco’s had him play.

“Playing safety all my life, it just feels natural,” Moore told the media with a smile. “When I went to corner, it was different, it was a challenge.

“[At safety], it’s just an easier feel, a more natural feel being able to see the whole field, just seeing routes develop and things like that, and being able to break [on the ball]. Just play freely.”

While it’s still early in the process, the 49ers hope they found a long-term solution at safety in Tarvarius Moore.

Media courtesy Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

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