49ers training camp: Cornerback depth proving to be a problem

Ambry Thomas #20 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Ambry Thomas #20 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers are already experiencing some issues with their cornerback depth chart during training camp, and there’s no plausible solution on the table.

The San Francisco 49ers were likely going to have some difficulty with their cornerback depth this season, given the fact they punted on the need during the 2020 NFL Draft and then waited until Round 3 to address the would-be shortages this year.

So it shouldn’t be a big surprise the Niners cornerbacks have been tested a lot in the opening phases of training camp.

And the results should be somewhat concerning.

Presumed No. 2 boundary cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is sidelined on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while veteran depth corner Dontae Johnson has been dealing with a foot issue, effectively leaving veterans Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams as the lone projected starters to partake fully in practices.

Already, the lack of depth is starting to show.

Now-waived cornerback Tim Harris Jr. ended up getting work in with the first-team unit on Tuesday. The fact he was waived and effectively replaced with another free-agent veteran, B.W. Webb, a day later points out just how much an issue this could potentially be, and it’s something Sports Illustrated’s Grant Cohn pointed out after Tuesday’s practice, too:

"The right cornerback position.It’s awful. Today, Ken Webster started there, and he shouldn’t even make the team. The 49ers currently have just one healthy NFL caliber cornerback on their roster — Jason Verrett. Everyone else is replaceable. They need Emmanuel Moseley to return A.S.A.P. and play well."

We’ll see if Webb makes a difference and/or if Johnson winds up returning soon and being at least a serviceable reserve, but it’s not taking much to realize this unit is going to be under the microscope.

49ers need Ambry Thomas to develop quickly

One of those two rookie cornerbacks selected this year, former Michigan defensive back Ambry Thomas, is a player needing to make the most of his chances.

Not just for his own personal development, but also because San Francisco might need him to play a pivotal role this season.

Thomas, who opted out last year before being selected in Round 3 of this year’s draft, will understandably go through his growing pains early, as many a young defensive back tends to experience. But given the injury histories of players like Verrett and Williams, now tacked on with the relative lack of experienced depth elsewhere on the roster, it’ll be imperative for Thomas to make some substantial leaps early in his development.

Related Story: Why Ambry Thomas takes over as starting cornerback in 2021

It’s either that outcome or the 49ers banking on the trio of Verrett, Williams and Moseley all staying healthy and contributing at a high level.

The latter might be a tall order.

As such, the development and sooner-than-anticipated contributions from Thomas might be the key storylines to watch between now and Week 1, making Thomas’ maturation arguably the most important element out of all the Niners’ rookie draft class this season.

Yes, perhaps even more than that of quarterback Trey Lance.

Next. 49ers have 4 players with Madden 22 ratings of 90 or above. dark