The curious case of the 49ers cornerback situation

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir (38) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir (38) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers didn’t have great depth at the cornerback position. How will they fare at the position group after losing starter Jason Verrett for the season?

The San Francisco 49ers came into the 2021 season with one position group that lacked depth. Whereas some of the other position groups had guys who could come off of the sideline and contribute just as much as starters, the cornerback position had some big question marks.

Jason Verrett, one of the few key starters to stay healthy in 2020, was one of the silver linings in an all but lost season. Verrett established himself as the No. 1 cornerback on the team.

However, with Richard Sherman injured for much of the season and on his way to free agency and highly inconsistent play from the others in the group, it was unclear who would emerge as the starter opposite Verrett in 2021.

Deommodore Lenoir, the rookie fifth-round pick from Oregon and preseason standout, looked to be ready for a big workload in Week 1 against the Detriot Lions with starter Emmanuel Moseley still nursing a knee injury

Lenoir didn’t disappoint in his 90 defensive snaps, he netted a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 59.3, a unit-best for the game.

The 49ers looked unstoppable in the first half of the game, taking a 31-10 lead into the half. But with 7:54 left in the game, Verrett left the game with what appeared to be a knee injury. It would turn out to be what everyone feared worst, a torn ACL that would keep him out for the rest of the season.

With Verrett injured, the 49ers came dangerously close to blowing the game giving up two late touchdowns and barely coming away with the victory, 41-33.

How do 49ers adjust at cornerback moving forward?

Going into Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the cornerback position still seems to be a big question mark. K’Waun Williams will likely be locked in at the nickel corner spot, but the outside corners might be an unknown until gameday.

Earlier in the week, the Niners signed veteran Dre Kirkpatrick who last played for the Arizona Cardinals.

Along with Lenoir and fellow rookie Ambry Thomas, the cornerback group includes Dontae Johnson, who has been back and forth with the 49ers since 2014. And Josh Norman, the one-time All-Pro who was inactive for the game against the Lions.

In Week 2 against the Eagles, the Niners may have a heavy rotation at cornerback. In base 4-3 packages, fans may see a rookie duo with Lenoir and Thomas out on the field guarding the Philly receivers.

Don’t think that Johnson, who keeps coming back, won’t see the field as well. In addition, Norman should be ready to go.

Based on everything that has been seen from Lenoir, he should be a lock into the starting cornerback position. Although he is a rookie, he has shown he’s absolutely NFL-ready.

Again, we are back to square one in which we don’t know who the No. 2 cornerback on the team will be, as Moseley doesn’t look ready to go yet. Norman has a lot to prove, it seems ages ago that he was an All-Pro cornerback playing in the Super Bowl with the Carolina Panthers.

Norman will be playing with a chip on his shoulder and looks to take this opportunity to show the world he is not washed and he still has something left in the tank. He will look to have the same type of career rebirth Sherman had in 2019 after some down years.

Moseley has had ups and downs as a starter, and the fact that he’s coming back from an injury means he’ll have an upward battle.

Next. 49ers vs. Eagles: 3 areas DeMeco Ryans must improve in Week 2. dark

After Week 2 there is a strong chance Lenoir and Norman will be San Francisco’s starting cornerbacks moving forward. Although this might not be an ideal situation, it would be the one that would give the 49ers the best chance to win.