No. 1: Cornerback Jason Verrett
Admittedly, Jason Verrett’s reintroduction to NFL action last Sunday after essentially a three-year absence wasn’t the start he was looking for.
The former Los Angeles Charger noted the speed of the game was faster than he remembered it:
This is to be expected, and it had to be a reason the 49ers were in no rush to put him out on the field, placing him on the inactive list as a healthy scratch for the first two weeks of the 2019 season. Injuries elsewhere, and then the loss of cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to a foot injury during the game against the Steelers, forced Verrett into action.
He only played four total snaps, giving up a defensive pass interference penalty (on what appeared to be a questionable call) and a long touchdown to Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
But the fact of the matter is the last time Verrett played anything close to a full football season, he was an elite defender, especially in pass coverage. He posted a 82.5 coverage grade in 2014 as a rookie, and followed it up with a 90.9 grade in 14 games in 2015.
And yes, it’s fair to say that this is projection and even a little bit of hope in terms of what Verrett can be going forward.
But either way, there’s going to be a need to revamp some of the 49ers defensive backfield going into the 2020 season, with fellow secondary member Jimmie Ward also tapped to be a free agent, and some questions regarding the unit’s depth.
At this point, Verrett has not played himself into a new contract, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities over the next three games or so while Witherspoon gets healthy, regardless of who starts opposite Richard Sherman.
If he shows something, even if it isn’t the same player he was before all the injuries, the Niners should look to keep him around for at least another season, possibly even for a longer term contract.