Goldson's rookie replacement shines

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers' defense has been playing at a high level all season and a big reason for it has been the steady play of the secondary.

A key member of the group has been rookie Eric Reid. The first-round pick (the 49ers traded up from No. 31 to No. 18 in the first round to get him) has been outstanding all season. A safety out of LSU, he has been an instant starter.

Reid was drafted to replace Dashon Goldson, 29, who departed to Tampa Bay in free agency. The 49ers will see the hard-hitting Goldson on Sunday when they visit the Buccaneers.

Many league observers think the 49ers have improved by letting Goldson walk and replacing him with Reid. ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said that argument could be made, especially considering Reid's future potential.

“Reid has been extremely solid, which is a huge compliment for a rookie defensive back,” Williamson said. “(Even for) right this minute, I might rather have Reid over Goldson, but for the long term, it isn't even close to me. ... I see Reid as more solid, and for his age, quite cerebral ... but he certainly is not lacking physical abilities.”

This week's game is a good reminder for those who thought the San Francisco defense would take a step back because of the change at safety. It simply hasn't happened.