SF 49ers: 5 backups who’ll be starters by end of 2020 season

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Jason Verrett, SF 49ers

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jason Verrett (22). Mandatory Credit: San Francisco 49ers/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network

The SF 49ers have been pressed by injury into starting a number of their backups, yet these five reserves on the roster could be starters by Week 17.

SF 49ers fans probably didn’t envision defensive lineman Kerry Hyder overtaking Pro Bowl EDGE Nick Bosa on the depth chart when the 2020 regular-season schedule came out.

After Bosa suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 2, however, Hyder rising up the ranks into a No. 1 spot on the roster became reality. And it illustrated just how important it was to have some exceptional team depth at various points across the roster.

Bosa isn’t the only player who has been knocked out because of injury. The Niners lost reserve defensive lineman Solomon Thomas to an ACL tear, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been sidelined with an ankle injury, cornerback Richard Sherman has dealt with calf issues and tight end George Kittle has missed games with a knee sprain.

That’s only part of San Francisco’s lengthy injury list, too.

For the most part, many of the SF 49ers backups have performed admirably well. But less than a quarter into the regular season, it’s likely other second- and perhaps even third-tier players wind up assuming key starting roles between now and Week 17 before the playoffs begin.

Here are five who could wind up claiming such starting roles between now and then.

 

No. 5: SF 49ers Cornerback Jason Verrett

In a way, this is cheating. Veteran cornerback Jason Verrett already got the start for San Francisco in Week 3’s win over the New York Giants, largely due to the fact the 49ers were without both Sherman and fellow corner Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion) during the game.

Verrett, who has dealt with his own notable injuries over his career, performed well in his first start since 2017, allowing just two passes on four attempts for 9 total yards while breaking up a pass, too, according to Pro Football Focus.

Based on those efforts alone, Verrett should start the rest of the way out as long as he stays healthy.

Interestingly enough, though, Verrett is still listed as a reserve behind Witherspoon on the team’s unofficial depth chart. But when evaluating the still-small 2020 sample size of PFF grades, it’s pretty clear Verrett is the upgrade over Witherspoon:

  • Jason Verrett: 75.3
  • Ahkello Witherspoon: 50.1

Sherman will come back. So with Witherspoon. But the latter should be pushed into a reserve role, leaving Verrett as the primary option to play opposite Sherman.

If Verrett can stay healthy, of course.

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