No. 3: Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon
Third-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon would probably like to forget the last time he matched up against the Buccaneers. After all, in that game last season, he gave up four catches on nine targets, along with being flagged twice (one of which was declined), while posting a 38.7 Pro Football Focus game grade in the process.
Witherspoon seemed to bounce back during the preseason, however, which is good news going forward.
This time, however, the efforts count for something more than just depth-chart positioning. And he’ll have a daunting task, covering Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans.
“With a bigger-bodied guy like that, you just have to put the ball in his area and he has that go-get-it mentality,” Witherspoon told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco of Evans. “That’s something that makes him special. He’s kind of like that DeAndre Hopkins style, where he’s not going to get a step on you, but even if you’re in perfect coverage he can still make a play. That’s where I see his biggest plays come.”
Evans had 116 receiving yards on six receptions the last time he played San Francisco.
“That’s the key — just not being afraid of a bigger guy, and going up and challenging him early and often,” Witherspoon continued.
Expect Witherspoon’s performance to be directly related to the game’s outcome.