Grades, analysis from 49ers nail-biting win Week 1 over Lions
Players: Jason Verrett, Deommodore Lenoir, Ambry Thomas, Dontae Johnson, Kwaun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, Jimmie Ward, Talanoa Hufanga, Tavon Wilson
The player who had the best game in the secondary was fifth-round rookie Deommodore Lenoir, who in 55 coverage snaps, gave up one catch for 3 yards and one pass interference on four targets. This performance was including when he played opposite Jason Verrett and would theoretically be the weak link on the field.
The major storyline from the secondary, though, was the unfortunate and heartbreaking injury to Verrett, who has likely suffered a torn ACL, another setback in what has been a long and arduous journey back to playing at an elite level. His play before the injury was quality as always, and his leaving the field was a massive deflator for the 49ers.
Verrett’s injury is terrible for many reasons, but one that particularly impacts the Niners is just how suspect the cornerback depth behind him was. This was shown during the game against the Lions. Ambry Thomas, the rookie third-round pick, did not look good in his snaps. He got beat consistently, and he was largely ineffective. The only reason people are not talking more about him is that the man opposite him, Dontae Johnson, may have single-handedly been the reason the Lions managed to get back in the game.
The second the Lions got the ball back and Verrett was gone, they picked on Johnson up and down the field. It was ugly to see, and it fueled their furious late-game comeback. As a sixth cornerback necessary in the utmost emergency, Johnson is serviceable at best, but this was a reminder of how barren the cornerback depth can be for the 49ers when he had to play meaningful minutes.
The safeties were unfortunately not much better. Jimmie Ward made several tackles in the open field, but he missed a big one to allow a touchdown to D’Andre Swift. Jaquiski Tartt wasn’t able to handle Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, a surprise given his coverage ability usually.
The backups in the secondary were not much better.
Overall, it was a disappointing affair for the 49ers’ back end, but the hope is that many of the main culprits correct themselves or don’t end up on the field. But there are deep issues here the Niners need to address or scheme around.