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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN identifies depth at safety as the 49ers’ biggest roster hole

May 6, 2020 at 3:06 PM--

It might be difficult to identify several holes on a team that is coming off of a Super Bowl run. Football Outsiders, in a feature for ESPN, went around the NFL and identified each team's biggest hole following free agency and the draft.

The San Francisco 49ers hope they filled the holes left by the losses of Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The team used its two first-round picks on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk of Arizona State. Both are expected to come in and immediately contribute.

San Francisco also lost 35-year-old six-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Staley, who retired on April 25 but replaced him with 31-year-old seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams, who was acquired via a trade.

So what area does ESPN, by way of Football Outsiders, see as the 49ers' biggest hole? That would be depth at safety. The analysts would love to see more of an impact from Jimmie Ward, who was re-signed to a three-year extension, and Jaquiski Tartt.

"The 49ers were the only team in the NFL last season whose safeties failed to record an interception," writes Football Outsiders, "and they were in the bottom five in tackles at the position too. Although defensive coordinator Robert Saleh often leaves his safeties deep to take away big plays, they are only moderately successful at that, ranking 12th in open-field rushing yards allowed and 10th in coverage against deep passes.

"Then there's the matter of durability. Ward has started 10 games only twice in six NFL seasons; Tartt has done so once in five. Neither has ever started more than 13 games."

The 49ers are looking to carry over the momentum from last season and turn it into another Super Bowl run in 2020 — this time finishing it with a victory.

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