Vic Fangio today said the only open competitions for a starting spot on the 49ers defense is now closed: Eric Reid has won what began as a four-way battle to replace Dashon Goldson at free safety.
"He's gotten better and better each and every day," Fangio said. "He's had mistakes here and there, but overall he's just been steady. He's grown in the position which has allowed his ability to come through more and more. He's tackled well in the games which is important to us. We lost a really good tackler last year in Goldson. We think Reid will continue to improve as the season goes on."
The news came as no surprise. The 49ers traded ahead 13 spots in the first round to select Reid out of LSU. He's played well in recent weeks and got his first start Sunday against the Vikings. Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder challenged the rookie with a deep pass on the first play of the game. The ball fell incomplete.
"I like to say I'd have gotten a pick, but you never know," Reid said when asked what would have happened had the pass been on target. "But I was in good position."
Reid beat free-agent acquisition Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman and Trenton Robinson for the job. Dahl and Spillman have prominent roles on special teams. Robinson is on the roster bubble. The 49ers must trim 21 players on Saturday to reach the 53-man limit.
* Fangio also said that Nnamdi Asomugha had the edge over Tramaine Brock in the competition to be the No. 3 cornerback. However, he said that Brock was slowed by an injury in recent weeks, which allowed Asomugha to take advantage. Now Asomugha is dealing with his own minor injury.
"It's a little bit unsettled because of the injury situation more than anything," Fangio said. We'll see if Asomugha is in uniform for the 49ers afternoon practice later today. ***UPDATE*** Asomugha practiced but was wearing a blue, non-contact jersey.
* With Parys Haralson in New Orleans, look for Dan Skuta and rookie Corey Lemonier to be the top backups at outside linebacker. Fangio said Skuta was similar in style to Haralson, which likely means he'll be a backup to Aldon Smith and/or Ahmad Brooks on base downs. Lemonier presumably would serve as a substitute pass rusher in nickel situations.
* Fangio said he expects Patrick Willis to play Week 1 against the Packers, even if he has to wear some sort of "contraption" on his right hand. Willis will go through the preseason without having played a game.
* Finally, Fangio said he was under the impression that Ahmad Brooks would be available for Week 1. In fact, he said he thought the NFL had announced that Brooks, involved in a fight with teammate Lamar Divens in June, would not be suspended. Asked in an email whether that announcement had been made, an NFL spokesman succinctly wrote, "nothing to report."
Brooks never was charged in the June incident. However, the NFL's personal conduct policy states that a player can face discipline from the league absent a conviction or charges.
-- Matt Barrows