No. 4: Akhello Witherspoon
Just like this one. Most people would think that Richard Sherman is the DB whose injury would be bad. I’m here to tell you why Ahkello Witherspoon is more important.
For starters, the 49ers aren’t necessarily expecting a completely healthy Sherman. He being completely healthy would be a major bonus, but if that’s the 49ers’ plan at cornerback, they have a major problem.
They are, however, counting on a healthy Witherspoon. Sherman will likely play at roughly 50 percent of his former capabilities as predicted by a scientific study. The 49ers need Witherspoon to be healthy and able to play, so they can have one corner spot comfortably locked up.
A Witherspoon injury changes that plan.
As much as Tarvarius Moore is a player to watch, the fact remains that he is a rookie changing positions. He’s the best option behind Ahkello, and there is no way he could play at the standards Witherspoon plays at. Those are pretty high standards. According to KNBR.com, Witherspoon “did not allow a touchdown in the final five weeks. He tied for the team lead in passes defended (seven) and interceptions (two).” These are outstanding stats for a rookie corner.
This is the type of defense the 49ers are banking on. Witherspoon will likely be targeted by QBs looking to avoid Sherman, just like Dontae Johnson last year. If Witherspoon gets injured, then the secondary will function like last year: One side of the field constantly thrown to, and a lot of points for opposing receivers.
But Witherspoon isn’t the only defensive star whose injury could break the 49ers’ hopes.