SF 49ers depth chart vs. NY Jets with Richard Sherman out

Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers will be without Richard Sherman for three weeks, raising questions about the team’s depth chart at cornerback versus the NY Jets.

Injuries have been a theme early for the SF 49ers, who are trying to overcome what ended up being a disappointing 24-20 Week 1 loss at home to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday.

An already-shorthanded Niners squad dealt with more bad news last Wednesday, losing veteran cornerback Richard Sherman to short-term injured reserve, meaning he’ll be unavailable to the team’s active roster for at least the next three weeks, including San Francisco’s Week 2 road matchup versus the New York Jets.

If there’s good news, Sherman’s absence will occur over a three-week period when the SF 49ers are playing the Jets and New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in back-to-back weeks, then hosting the banged-up Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4. That’s arguably the best stretch for Sherman to be out.

Nevertheless, the injury will test the Niners depth chart at cornerback, which already underwent some changes in his absence. San Francisco promoted veteran corner Dontae Johnson from the practice squad, and he’ll likely work his way into the rotation alongside the presumed starters, Emmanuel Moseley, Ahkello Witherspoon and nickel corner K’Waun Williams.

SF 49ers cornerback depth chart for Week 2 vs. NY Jets

Moseley and Williams are essentially the two quality starters the 49ers will have for Week 2, potentially beyond, even though both players were somewhat victimized by wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the Cardinals offense in Week 1.

Depth always being a concern, here’s likely how San Francisco’s depth chart at the position pans out in New York.

Emmanuel Moseley

Moseley worked his way into the starting lineup last year when Witherspoon suffered a foot sprain, ultimately reclaiming the job during the NFC divisional game and holding onto that role into Super Bowl LIV and the 2020 regular season.

While Moseley has predominantly worked as a boundary corner, he does have the versatility to bounce inside to nickel, guarding against any injury suffered by Williams.

Ahkello Witherspoon

Witherspoon is the player most likely to benefit from Sherman’s absence, at least on the interim. Yet there’s a wrinkle here, too, as Witherspoon apparently suffered a concussion late in Week 1 and is currently in the protocol.

If he clears, Witherspoon will look to seize on the upside he displayed early in 2019 before his own injury. Most of Witherspoon’s training camp efforts this summer were questionable, at best, so there may be less time for him to regain any sort of depth-chart prowess.

K’Waun Williams

San Francisco doesn’t have a true backup to Williams, who also was dealing with injuries in camp.

When healthy, Williams is one of the better nickel cornerbacks in the NFL despite what happened to him in Week 1.

The Niners need him to stay on the field.

Dontae Johnson

It seems like a weekly occurrence Johnson winds up being signed off the free-agent list and then released again. Only this time, his promotion came from off the practice squad.

Johnson was one of the two players active from the practice squad in Week 1, the only difference now being he’ll receive a higher salary from being on the active roster than he otherwise would have received.

Expect Johnson, who started 16 games for this same 49ers defense in 2017, to be the primary boundary backup for either Moseley or Witherspoon in Week 2.

Jason Verrett

Veteran corner Jason Verrett appeared to be a favorite to land a starting job to begin the year, as he was working with the first-team defense a lot in camp. But a hamstring injury just before Week 1 resulted in him being inactive for the contest, and it also pushes him far down the depth chart here.

That’s been a theme for Verrett, who saw just two snaps for San Francisco last season and has played in only six regular-season games since the start of 2016.

It’s likely the Niners would prefer Verrett to get back to 100 percent before considering him an on-field option, even if he’s still on the 53-man roster.

Ken Webster

One of the corresponding moves San Francisco made in light of Sherman’s injury was to ink third-year pro defensive back Ken Webster off the Miami Dolphins practice squad.

Webster, 5-foot-11, could potentially be an emergency nickel back to guard against Williams suffering an injury, although it’s not clear if he’d be an option on game day this Sunday. If anything, it’s a long-term insurance policy in case Williams winds up going down for any length of time.

Don’t expect Webster to be anything more than a special teams player versus the Jets if he’s even active at all.

The 49ers could tweak their secondary around a little bit in New York, possibly moving free safety Jimmie Ward down into a cornerback role and inserting backup safety Tarvarius Moore into Ward’s stead. That’s just one possible move, although the Niners have traditionally avoided large-scale shifts on either side of the ball.

The rationale being the weakening of one position shouldn’t prompt weakening a slew of others by bouncing around players.

Fortunately, New York doesn’t exactly boast the most prolific of passing offenses after managing just 202 yards through the air during their Week 1 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Still, the ideal scenario would be Sherman being in the fold and not out of it.

Next. 3 reasons why 49ers lost ugly to Cardinals in Week 1. dark

The SF 49ers and NY Jets kick off on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. ET from MetLife Stadium.