49ers cornerbacks who must step up with Emmanuel Moseley out for year
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers are going to be without cornerback Emmanuel Moseley for the rest of 2022, and these corners will have to do their best to fill the void.
On one hand, the San Francisco 49ers’ dominant 37-15 Week 5 win over the Carolina Panthers was notably as complete a game as they’ve played this season.
On the other, though, it was chock full of injuries.
None were more serious than starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley going down with what appeared to be a significant knee injury. Making it worse, the injury occurred during garbage time when the outcome was all but guaranteed.
Shortly after the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan suspected it was a torn ACL for Moseley, and then NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the same on Monday morning, adding that Moseley would undergo season-ending surgery:
Brutal. Especially in light of Moseley having a career-best kind of year alongside fellow boundary cornerback Charvarius Ward.
Ward’s emergence as the Niners’ top corner this season helps alleviate Moseley’s loss to a certain extent, and San Francisco’s defensive depth has been able to overcome a number of other less-serious injuries already this season.
However, there are a number of other defensive backs who’ll now be tasked with filling Moseley’s void.
Let’s look at who must step up the most on the 49ers depth chart.
49ers’ initial fallback option for Emmanuel Moseley: Samuel Womack
Immediately after Moseley went down with the injury, the Niners inserted rookie corner Samuel Womack into the formation.
Womack, who played well during the preseason, nevertheless lost the starting nickel job in Week 3 to fellow defensive back Deommodore Lenoir, and it’s understandable if San Francisco wants to be a little hesitant asking the fifth-round rookie to handle full-time boundary duties going forward.
It’s important to note Womack entered the game during garbage time when a significant number of 49ers reserves were placed on the field.
Instead, the Niners may want to turn to other options, especially if Womack struggles.
49ers’ best-case option for Emmanuel Moseley: Jason Verrett
Veteran cornerback Jason Verrett fully understands what Moseley is going through right now, himself having suffered the same injury way back at the very beginning of the 2021 season.
Verrett still hasn’t come off the reserve/physically unable-to-perform list yet, where he was placed to begin the NFL year, but San Francisco did open up his practice window and will entertain bringing him back once he’s 100 percent.
The 49ers aren’t likely to rush this, though, especially in light of Verrett’s significant injury history.
However, if the Niners get anything close to the kind of season Verrett put forth back in 2020 when he was mostly healthy, they’ll have one of the more effective one-two punches at cornerback moving forward.
49ers contingency options for Emmanuel Moseley: Ambry Thomas, Dontae Johnson
There is a scenario in which San Francisco has to dig deep on the depth chart.
Womack could struggle on the boundary, and Verrett might not quite be ready to go just yet or could also suffer another injury upon his return. If either would be the case, the 49ers would likely have to turn to players like Ambry Thomas or Dontae Johnson.
Thomas, whose finish to the 2021 regular season was commendable, has been mostly a non-factor this year, having seen only eight defensive snaps over five games after struggling for much of training camp and the preseason.
Sure, the Niners can hope for a similar output to the one Thomas enjoyed towards the end of 2021, but they may prefer to go with a more experienced option like Johnson.
Johnson, the inevitable player, is still on San Francisco’s practice squad, but there will be a time when he’s either elevated for a game or actually signed to the 53-man roster.
Given Johnson’s nine years of experience at the NFL level, he might be the smartest fall-back option out there if the others don’t pan out.