Why Jason Verrett should start for SF 49ers after Week 3

Jason Verrett #27 of the San Francisco 49ers defends Artie Burns #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Jason Verrett #27 of the San Francisco 49ers defends Artie Burns #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers got a surprisingly impressive Week 3 outing from cornerback Jason Verrett, and he should start the rest of 2020 if he stays healthy.

There were plenty of positive takeaways from the SF 49ersone-sided 36-9 Week 3 win over the New York Giants.

Nick Mullens is more than just an adequate backup quarterback. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw are living up to their expectations as first-round NFL Draft picks. And the Niners are deep enough to overcome the slew of injuries they’ve dealt with early this season.

One player who hasn’t been able to shake the injury reputation, however, is veteran cornerback Jason Verrett.

Verrett, who saw a mere two snaps for San Francisco his first year with the team in 2019 before landing on injured reserve, likely wasn’t pegged for a massive role this season. Especially considering he appeared in just six regular-season games since the beginning of 2016.

But injuries and opportunities opened up the door for Verrett to respark his scuffling and injury-plagued career. Already short veteran cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and depth corner Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) in Week 3, Verrett got his first start since being a member of the Los Angeles Chargers back in 2017.

And he didn’t disappoint.

According to Pro Football Focus, which gave Verrett a solid 75.3 overall game grade in Week 3, the 29 year old surrendered only two passes on four targets for a mere 9 yards, breaking up a pass while matched up against Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton.

Unlike those ugly two snaps he saw last year in Week 3 — a defensive pass-interference call and a touchdown allowed — Verrett looked completely poised and composed, fluid in his coverage, too.

“I was so happy for Jason Verrett,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the game. “Jason Verrett is a stud. He’s been a great player in this league, and he’s been through maybe even more than [Jerick McKinnon] has here in the last couple of years. I was so glad that he came back with our team. He had an opportunity.”

Verrett nearly saw his 2020 campaign derailed in a similar manner as had so many other seasons had been, suffering a training camp hamstring injury that held him out of Weeks 1 and 2.

Fortunately, he bounced back and then some.

“He played great in camp, then had that hamstring the last week, and that really set him back,” Shanahan added. “He got his opportunity today, and he had a great week of practice. It was awesome watching him on those three days. I felt like he was going to do a really good job today, and then he did.”

SF 49ers need Jason Verrett to start from this point onward

Sherman is eligible to come off short-term injured reserve in Week 5 after suffering a calf injury in Week 1. But that’s not the only injury San Francisco is dealing with at the position.

Witherspoon’s status remains a question mark. And even when he’s been on the field, the 2017 third-round pick has looked like little more than a reserve option and not a starter, posting a PFF grade of 50.1 on the season in limited action.

If those two setbacks weren’t enough, the Niners also lost cornerback Emmanuel Moseley to a concussion during Week 3’s game, and he remains in the protocol.

Even if Moseley returns healthy enough in time for the SF 49ers’ Week 4 game at home versus the Philadelphia Eagles, Verrett should still get the start.

Moseley is a quality cornerback, yes. And he might potentially be a starting-caliber option with another year’s experience. But it’s pretty clear, at least based on the early results, Verrett has the higher pedigree and playmaking skills Moseley has flashed but hasn’t displayed with regular consistency. True, Verrett’s injury history makes for a major concern. But that’s where having Moseley as a prime backup to Verrett makes a lot of sense.

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Fortunately, Verrett and the SF 49ers are poised to face a scuffling Eagles squad averaging a league-low 4.6 yards per pass attempt this season.

Verrett should be an easy start there and remain in such a role for as long as he physically can.