Taylor Mays will be the 49ers starting safety opposite of Dashon Goldson, head coach Mike Singletary announced Monday.
The team’s second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft performed quite well in his first career start at Atlanta. He totaled a team-high 11 tackles and made a heads-up play recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Mays’ complete body of work impressed his veteran teammates, who noticed that the No. 49 overall pick out of USC came into the game as prepared as possible.
“It showed when he got on the field,” cornerback Nate Clements said. “He was ready to roll. He knew what he was doing and he was confident in what he was doing. Because of that, he made some plays.”
Clements was especially pleased with how Mays prepared himself through the preseason and first three regular season games prior to making his defensive debut on Sunday.
“It’s definitely encouraging. We tell the (younger) guys that the NFL is a long season. These guys have to prepare like they’re starting every week because you never know. You always have to be ready and he was ready.”
Mays was happy to be named the starter, but said it won’t change his approach.
“I’ve been learning every day and really trying to get better on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I really take every day as a chance to get better and that’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what I have to continue to do.”
Now playing opposite of Goldson, the same player who tried to recruit Mays to the University of Washington, the 49ers newest starter is eager to build on what the defense has done to this point.
“I’m happy to be able to step in and help the team,” Mays said. “It’s a responsibility and I have to play at a high level, play up to the level that our defense has been playing at. I’m trying to do everything I can to help and support the team.”
Mays is going to keep following the lead of his veteran teammates, who, like the coaching staff, have aided his development up to this point.
“I felt like we played good enough to win a game, but we didn’t win. I know we have great leaders on this defense and we’ll do what we have to do in order to be successful.”
One of those leaders, Clements, was as scrutinized as any 49ers player after the loss. Clements’ fourth-quarter fumble gave the Falcons new life and a chance to kick a game-winning field goal.
The veteran cornerback talked about the fumble on Monday, calling it an instinctual play.
“It was happening fast,” Clements said of the play in which he was stripped from behind by Atlanta wideout Roddy White, allowing the Falcons to recover at their own 7-yard line with 1:31 left in the game. “I caught the ball and I didn’t see anybody but the quarterback and I had three blockers. I was just trying to advance the ball for the offense.”
Clements said the play “definitely stung.”
The 10-year veteran added that if he had carried the ball “high and tight” as Singletary routinely says in practice, the fumble and scrutiny would have never taken place.
Clements’ said his teammates encouraged him after the game and told him to keep making plays.
Singletary said a loss like Sunday’s was encouraging overall. In his estimation, it signifies the 49ers are close to achieving their season goals. As he noted, all of them are still within reach. He felt even more encouraged after studying the game film in greater detail. “I’m encouraged by our guys and where their focus is.”
The perceived easier upcoming schedule for the 49ers is not entering Singletary’s thought process. Not one bit. “I don’t every say the schedule is softening,” he said. “Every week, you just have to play.”
On the debut of Mike Johnson as offensive coordinator, Singletary said the former quarterbacks coach called the game well. “He got the ball in the hands of the play-makers. We were able to utilize Frank in some other ways… I thought he kept them guessing.”
According to the head coach, the only way for the 49ers to break the four-game losing streak is to simply work harder. “This is the time you have to take it the next gear.”
The injuries from the game included: guard Chilo Rachal (left knee sprain), tight end Delanie Walker (left ankle sprain), linebacker Manny Lawson (knee contusion) and safety Reggie Smith (hamstring). Rachal’s day-to-day, Walker will be re-evaluated and Lawson and Smith are “fine” according to Singletary.
Tags: Dashon Goldson, Nate Clements, Taylor Mays
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