Jimmie Ward boosted the 49ers with his return last week.
Now it is Jaquiski Tartt who is in a position to provide another boost. Kyle Shanahan announced Wednesday at his presser that the 49ers will be opening the practice window for Tartt and Dre Greenlaw. These players will be eligible to be activated for the matchup with the Jaguars on Sunday.
However, though Tartt will likely be activated, he by no means is a lock to get his starting role back over Talanoa Hufanga.
"No, Tartt doesn't automatically get the starting position,” said Shanahan. "We're not sitting here trying to replace Tartt either. I think Tartt’s played at a high level for us for a number of years, can do a bunch of things. But even before he got hurt, we were trying to get Huff in there too. Because of what Huff has brought to the table. But we'll see how the week goes this week. I’ve got to see where Tartt is at, but I expect them both to play if Tartt’s healthy.”
The 49ers should indefinitely keep Hufanga as the starter over Tartt.
Hufanga has continued to ascend dating as far back as training camp. It all happened due to the chances he was provided when Tartt suffered a toe injury. That allowed Hufanga to maximize his opportunities and the coaches to see where he is at. Hufanga never seemed to disappoint. He has been raved about ever since camp and he continues to get better.
“I just like how he doesn't hesitate on anything,” Shanahan said. “I was just saying today in the team meeting, that when he makes a play like he did on that third-and-four when they tried to run that pick route and he met him, it looks like he's not just thinking about that on game day. It looks like he decided on Wednesday how he's going to play. You can see it in everything he does and there's just no hesitation in his game. And that's what I want to see, 11 guys out there not hesitating and flying around.”
That is what makes Hufanga so enticing. You cannot teach instincts and Hufanga has them in spades. My only slight against him is that he is not fast whatsoever. Receivers can easily blow past him, especially if they get him on a double move. But that is where he can make up for it with his instincts. If you can react in a snap of a finger after dissecting the play preciscely, then you put yourself in a massively advantageous position.
Hufanga has a future with the 49ers. Tartt does not. Nothing against Tartt because he is an underrated player, but his time with the 49ers is limited. I believe he is a lock to leave the 49ers after the season, and it is not like he came back to the 49ers this season out of loyalty or anything. Injuries from 2020 hurt his market. I think he was set on leaving, but since he couldn't field decent offers, it behooved him to stay where he is comfortable and double down on himself. Kind of like what Jason Verrett did.
Elijah Mitchell cannot be the only rookie the 49ers are developing. Hufanga is the start of something for the 49ers to finally get some return on investment with their draft capital.