49ers training camp: 3 players who must impress to avoid being cut

Ahkello Witherspoon #23 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Ahkello Witherspoon #23 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /
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Ahkello Witherspoon, 49ers
Ahkello Witherspoon #23 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

No. 2: 49ers Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon

If you’re like me, after watching cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon get worked and outmuscled last December by then-Los Angeles Rams receiver Brandin Cooks, you were screaming at the TV for the Niners to get him off the field.

The once-promising third-round pick out of Colorado struggled throughout the second half of the 2019 season playing opposite Richard Sherman and eventually was replaced “for good” in the playoffs by fellow corner Emmanuel Moseley against the Minnesota Vikings after being abused in the first quarter of that contest.

In fact, Moseley spelled the struggling and inconsistent Witherspoon frequently last year, earning a solid Pro Football Focus rank of 70.0 and most likely will be the presumptive starter heading into training camp this year.

The one saving grace Witherspoon has of staying on the roster and seeing regular-season action is the team is relatively thin at the position after inexplicably passing on drafting a cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft. They did sign talented UDFA DeMarkus Acy from Missouri afterwards, but as talented and physically gifted (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) as he is, Acy would be a longshot to start this season.

Aside from Moseley, Witherspoon’s biggest obstacle in seeing significant playing time may actually be Tarvarious Moore, the third-year defensive back from Southern Mississippi.

Moore, who has played free safety and cornerback, has the versatility and natural instincts to transition to cornerback more frequently if needed.

The team also will have veterans Jason Verrett, Dontae Johnson, and Tim Harris, among others, seeing time at the second cornerback position during camp.

Witherspoon needs to regain some of the confidence and talent he displayed during his rookie season. And as many opportunities as the team has given him to secure the second cornerback position, his chances may be running thin.

Add to that the dead money on his contract if he were to be cut before the season is just a little over $243,000, and Witherspoon has a lot to prove and little time to do so.