49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

June 5, 2012
Q: Did 49ers dump Taylor Mays too soon?


chris lockwood ‏@ChrisLoces: It's going to b interesting to c how Taylor fares Ths seasn as a starter. Cldnt we hve kpt him for depth?

There was a lot of chatter yesterday about Taylor Mays after reports noted that he's been getting the most playing time of all the Bengals safeties for the starting spot opposite Reggie Nelson. But he also has the most experience after Nelson, which likely is why he's getting more repetitions in May and June.

Here's Bengals reporter Joe Reedy, who writes that Mays, a second-round pick by the 49ers in 2010, has the edge right now for the starting spot but does not have it locked in. Defensive coordinator Mike "Zimmer would like to see more consistency," Reedy writes. "Zimmer says there has been some progress from Mays, who was acquired in a trade from San Francisco last year, but that there is still more that has to be gained."

The 49ers dealt Mays to the Bengals in August - they received a seventh-round pick in 2013 in return - when they had a glut of safeties. Since then, veterans Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams have departed via free agency, and the team is looking for depth at the position among a group of green youngsters.

One interesting note is that Zimmer and the Bengals prefer size when it comes to safeties. Mays, of course, is almost linebacker-like in stature. The other two players competing for the open spot are Boise State rookie George Iloka and Robert Sands, both of whom are 6-4.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have gone in the opposite direction. They drafted 5-9, 193-pound Trenton Robinson in the sixth round and also brought in undrafted Michael Thomas, who is *5-10, 185 pounds. Both look more like cornerbacks - small cornerbacks - than they do safeties.

But they also are good in coverage, which was where Mays struggled. And in a league that has increasingly gone to the air, coverage ability trumps size. "With so many sub sets with three and four receivers in the game, one of your safeties has to be a major cover guy," defensive backs coach Ed Donatell said. "And those guys are out of that profile."

As Donatell noted, the 49ers will face the five most prolific passers from 2011 during the upcoming season. The answer to the original question is that, if Mays was a liability in coverage as the 49ers concluded, there was no reason to keep him around.

* Thomas is listed as 5-11 but actually measured 5-9 7/8 inches at his pro day.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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