49ers roster: Grading each position halfway through scuffling 2021 season
By Peter Panacy
Yes, San Francisco should be faulted for relying too heavily on oft-injured veterans like defensive backs Jason Verrett, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward to avoid getting hurt. But all three are out now, highlighted by Verrett’s season-ending ACL tear way back in Week 1.
The 49ers tried stockpiling the depth during the offseason, yes. But rookie cornerbacks Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir have scantly played, instead forcing the Niners to try experimenting with castoff veterans signed in NFL free agency, such as Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick.
Norman, despite forcing four fumbles this season, has also been flagged a team-high seven times for penalties, six of which have either been for defensive pass interference or holding. At this point, his bonus to the team is being outweighed by his liability.
Kirkpatrick hasn’t served much better.
San Francisco has also been asked to rely on backup safeties Tavon Wilson and Talanoa Hufanga, the latter drawing interest because of his rookie status. Hufanga has had some impressive moments, yes, but he’s also revealing why he was a day-three NFL Draft pick and isn’t quite at the level of a truly reliable starter.
Overall, the 49ers pass defense has allowed just 1,652 yards on the season, good for fourth best, but also has generated a mere two interceptions on the year and has far more questions than answers at this point.
Oh, and it desperately misses Ward and Tartt right now.