The SF 49ers haven’t had a healthy crop of cornerbacks, but there’s a budding depth chart battle between Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley.
At some point, the SF 49ers are going to be in a relatively good situation with their cornerback depth.
True, it doesn’t seem like that five weeks into the 2020 season. Up until this point, all five of the Niners’ top options here have gone down with some sort of injury one way or another.
Just to recap:
- Richard Sherman (calf)
- Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring)
- K’Waun Williams (knee)
- Emmanuel Moseley (concussion)
- Jason Verrett (hamstring)
Reserve corner Dontae Johnson has also been banged up, which somehow coerced San Francisco to start an unknown defensive back, Brian Allen, in Week 5 against the Miami Dolphins.
Sherman’s timetable for return is unknown. But when he does get back, the SF 49ers are going to have a bit of a conundrum regarding who on the depth chart starts opposite him: Verrett or Moseley.
And that’s a good thing.
SF 49ers: Jason Verrett or Emmanuel Moseley the No. 2 cornerback?
In training camp, most signs pointed at the oft-injured Verrett being the favorite to secure a starting job. True, the Niners felt comfortable starting Moseley, a former undrafted free agent, both in the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl last season.
Yet Verrett, when healthy, has shown a much higher pedigree. He was, after all, a 2015 Pro Bowler with the San Diego Chargers. And over his first three games played this season, Verrett has managed eight tackles and one pass breakup.
In contrast, however, Moseley has registered 18 tackles and two pass breakups.
But the traditional stats can be a bit misleading. It’s one thing to tackle players after they’ve already gained 8 or 10 yards against someone in coverage. It’s another to prevent the need to tackle altogether.
Some of Pro Football Focus‘ metrics and analysis can come into play here. While not always a perfect system to use, PFF does tell a difference between both Verrett and Moseley over their respective 2020 campaigns:
- Opposing quarterback passer rating allowed
- Verrett: 51.6
- Moseley: 77.3
- Pass-coverage grade
- Verrett: 60.9
- Moseley: 68.2
- Yards allowed per coverage snap
- Verrett: 0.26
- Moseley: 1.02
Draw any concise conclusions yet? No?
Good. That’s the point.
To date, the SF 49ers still boast the league’s No. 3-ranked pass defense with a net total of 1,078 pass yards allowed despite the defensive debacle that was Week 5 against the Dolphins. And the Niners are currently surrendering just 6.3 yards per play through the air, which is 12th best and stands in contrast to the notion the lack of an effective pass rush is proving to be overly problematic.
Moseley, who is still in the concussion protocol, is an effective starter. Given the injuries elsewhere at the position, San Francisco can’t wait to get him back in the fold.
But there’s a good chance Verrett will be relied upon, too, once that occurs.
The real question here, though, is what happens when Sherman makes his return from an elongated calf injury. Should Verrett stay as a boundary starter, pushing Moseley back into a much-needed reserve role and potentially spelling a still-injured Williams? Or would the SF 49ers, knowing Sherman and Verrett are both poised to hit free agency in 2021, value Moseley (a restricted free agent next season) gaining more experience as part of the long-term future.
It’s a good problem to have, though.