Sakamoto: 49ers’ SS Jaquiski Tartt Poised For Pass Rush Role In 3-3-5 Stack?

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Many Forever Faithful are growing increasingly frustrated with the San Francisco 49ers lackluster pass-rush. A defense that finished 29th in that category, the 49ers must improve in this area. 49ers GM Trent Baalke did little in free-agency to address the need but did add a nice toy in the draft.

“As you know we’ve never been huge believers in the opening market of free-agency. Because let’s face it, no matter who you take on the open-market you’re overpaying them,” Baalke told me during our annual pre-draft interview. The team recently added first-round pick (No. 7) DE DeForest Buckner but he’s only one man.

The mark of a good coach puts his players in the best position to make plays. For this reason, I believe new 49ers DC Jim O’Neil will fully take advantage of second-year phenom SS Jaquiski Tartt.

In 2015, the 49ers recorded 28.0 sacks. Only three other teams sucked more than them. Those teams were the New York Giants (23), Buffalo Bills (21) and Atlanta Falcons (19). Unfortunately for them, they don’t have ‘Pop Tartt’ at their disposal.

Baalke was all smiles, this time last year, after the selection of the Samford product. Shortly after making the pick, Baalke already had a vision for his second-round pick (No. 46). “A four-down player. A guy that can contribute on all four downs. He’s big. He’s fast. He’s physical. He’s been coached well at Samford. He’s a fourth-down contributor day one,” Baalke said.

Tartt has yet to relish a starters role, but made the most of his opportunities during his rookie season.“I did well a few games as a rookie, but this year, I want to play well in every game,” Tartt told In 2015, Tartt finished tied for fourth-best in tackles (65) while adding 2.0 sacks, one interception, and 3 PBU’s.

Expect those numbers to grow exponentially this season, as I believe the team will employ a 3-3-5 stack package on obvious passing downs.

One element of O’Neil’s defense the players absolutely love is his aggressive approach. Something that is polar opposite from former 49ers DC Vic Fangio’s soft cover 2-scheme, O’Neil will put his players in the best position to make plays, and that includes bringing safeties like Tartt down in the box.

Under a 3-3-5 stack alignment, the defensive coordinator will sub out a down lineman in favor of a extra strong safety. The ideology behind this strategy is simple – more speed and flexibility to create pressure off the edge.

Also known as a ’33 stack,’ the linebackers and safeties are then lined up directly behind the three defensive lineman in front [hence stack]. The point of this formation is confusion. A center can easily identify the ‘Mike’ linebacker in a standard 4-2-5 nickel defense.

By implementing the 33 stack, the formation can change at any given time often showing a 3-4, 4-3, or even 4-4 look depending on how the extra defensive back [Tartt] lines up. But don’t think for a second the team will plug him in at linebacker in it’s base defense, as Baalke shot that down. “No, he’s not a linebacker. Now, could he be in some of the dime looks and stuff? Possibly. As far as a down in and down out, no, he’s a safety,” Baalke said.

At 6-1, 221, Tartt has the unique skill set to make a living around the line of scrimmage. Baalke already raved about his open-field tackling, it’s now up to O’Neil to get the most out of his hybrid player.

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.