Strange occurrences have the 49ers reeling and questioning what has gone on in this strange 1-9 season. But one of the most bizarre is their current string of injuries at free safety. In each of the last three games, a 49ers starting safety has broken an arm, or a thumb.
It started with Jimmie Ward three weeks ago when he shattered his forearm in Philadelphia. Then, his replacement, Jaquiski Tarrt, broke his arm against the Cardinals, and last week against the Giants, rookie Adrian Colbert broke his thumb making a first-quarter tackle.
Ward and Tarrt are likely out for the year, Colbert could return after the Seattle game next Sunday, but that is unlikely. Nevertheless, the question must be asked, is this just a bizarre chain of events?
The likely answer is yes.
However, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has taught defensive backs in particular, new tackling techniques. The idea was to make sure his smaller DB’s didn’t get hurt, by lowering the aiming point for tackling. Typically a defensive back targets the waist, even the chest. However, when approaching a heavier player, Saleh wants his defensive backs going lower, to the thigh.
Tarrt got hurt on such a play. With 270-pound tight end Troy Niklas speeding right toward him after catching a pass, Tarrt aimed at the thigh and got his arm involved in wrapping Niklas’ legs. Tarrt who was giving away 50 pounds, smacked his right arm hard against one of Niklas’ tree-trunk of a leg and his arm gave way.
It’s difficult to tell how Ward broke his arm. It might have been when he fell to the turf.
Colbert broke his thumb making a crushing tackle on Giants wide receiver Tavarres King. Colbert did aim for the hip-thigh area, and once again, he broke the thumb attempting to wrap up. The violence of the hit probably caused the break more than anything else and that’s one of the disadvantages of favoring speed over size on defense.
Smaller, faster players, which is what Saleh wants get hurt more than bigger players, which is what former general manager Trent Baalke favored.
Saleh would likely argue aiming higher on bigger players might cause more injuries. It’s probably something no one can research but the 49ers might want to re-think their tackling techniques if players continue to break limbs.