Finally, a longer look at 49ers' safety Goldson

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers badly want Dashon Goldson to give them needed speed and playmaking ability at free safety. I thought the 49ers might name him the starter a year ago. They went with veteran Mark Roman instead. Now there's no doubt. Goldson is the starter.

Roman played more than 99 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps in each of the past two seasons. Goldson played less than 15 percent as a rookie in 2007 and less than 20 percent last season. That's why I think it's premature to say Goldson has struggled to transfer his impressive practice performances into regular-season games, a common criticism.

The 49ers need to let Goldson grow into the starting role and evaluate him over time, not just for what he has done in nickel and dime situations.

I caught up with Goldson at 49ers camp last week. We discussed perceptions about him and expectations for the upcoming season.

Mike Sando: The book on you says you've been a better practice player than game player. How did you get that reputation without playing a whole lot?

Dashon Goldson: I mean, I guess as a young player coming in, especially in the situation I was coming in, I was playing in dime and a lot of nickel, so I think they were looking at me as a difference maker because of my range. But I wasn't in game situations where I could make those plays. But they see all the plays I'm making out there, things I can get done, and they just have high expectations for me, I think.

Mike Sando: Did you have to fight against trying to do too much in those limited reps?

Dashon Goldson: I don't try to force anything. But when a coach is on you like, 'Come on, you gotta make plays,' it can cause you to try to be a Superman out there. The most important thing is to play within the scheme.

Mike Sando: How do you like this defense?

Dashon Goldson: Man, I love the defense. I should be able to make a lot of plays on the ball this year, just the amount of range and the situations they are putting me in. I think playing regular downs and not just coming in on third downs and passing situations, I can make a lot of plays.

Mike Sando: How are you holding up physically?

Dashon Goldson: I'm feeling great. Feeling real good. My body healed up. Stronger, faster.

Mike Sando: You do seem to be flying around the practice field.

Dashon Goldson: Oh yeah. It's pride, man. I'm trying to show these coaches and build that trust. I was a young player and didn't play too many snaps. It's important for me to show them that I can do it and I'm doing it in practice and you practice like you play, so that is what I'm trying to get in their heads.

Mike Sando: Do you get much feedback from Mike Singletary?

Dashon Goldson: Yeah, he takes notice. He complimented me yesterday. We were playing 9-on-7 and I came up and went 'bang' with one of the linemen, a pretty good shot, and he was like, 'Stay away from those linemen. I don't want you getting hurt. That was a good stick, I love it, but try to stay away from them because we need you for the season.'

Mike Sando: What is most important for you to have a good season?

Dashon Goldson: Staying healthy, just stay healthy throughout the season. Make plays and be a difference maker on this defense. I have no problem with being that guy they look to to make a play. I come out here with a lot of energy, trying to get the rest of the guys going, flying around. I get that good feeling so when I get to the game ...

Mike Sando: How does this defensive scheme put you in position to make plays?

Dashon Goldson: We mix it up. We are a man team, we play everything and we play a lot of fire zones and I'm just getting down the route concepts on the offensive side and situations, what routes they run, down and distance, stuff like that -- situations.

Mike Sando: You get Arizona in the opener -- again. So much for easing into the season. You get Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and those guys right away.

Dashon Goldson: It's a challenge for me. It's a challenge for me. It's never bad. It's a good thing. They're coming off a good championship game. They had a good season and that game is going to show where we're at, see how much we put in in the offseason and how good we're going to be throughout the season.