49ers depth chart: Kyle Shanahan hits at not being happy with Isaiah Oliver

So far, it's not looking as if Isaiah Oliver is solving the 49ers' void at nickel cornerback.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Isaiah Oliver (26)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Isaiah Oliver (26) / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Isaiah Oliver was one of the 49ers' bigger free-agent pickups of the offseason, but he might not even win a starting job, as Kyle Shanahan hinted.

It needs to be a disclaimer before and after every preseason game.

But, through two exhibition bouts, San Francisco 49ers veteran cornerback Isaiah Oliver hasn't exactly looked like the high-quality free-agent pickup the Niners envisioned he'd be.

Including us here at Niner Noise.

According to Pro Football Focus, Oliver gave up all four targets in Week 1 of the preseason against the Las Vegas Raiders, including a touchdown, which translated into a lowly 30.1 overall grade. Then, the following exhibition game against the Denver Broncos a week later, Oliver gave up another catch for 18 yards and was also slapped with a missed tackle.

While notably improved, PFF's game grade for him in Week 2 of the preseason was 65.9. But that missed tackle highlights an issue. And there are further issues that aren't showing up in PFF grades either.

More importantly, Oliver certainly appears to have not locked up the starting nickel job despite being handed a two-year, $6.75 million free-agent contract during the offseason with $2.91 million guaranteed, according to Over the Cap.

Oliver was one of the players new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks championed during the offseason, and San Francisco made the transaction.

With one week to go in the preseason, however, it sure seems as if Oliver could be looking up at other options on the depth chart.

Wilks and head coach Kyle Shanahan's recent comments aren't exactly a positive endorsement.

Both Steve Wilks, Kyle Shanahan note how Isaiah Oliver hasn't claimed 49ers' starting nickel role

After the Niners' preseason outing against Denver, Shanahan was asked why he rotated the presumed starting boundary cornerback, Deommodore Lenoir, inside.

"We just wanted to get a look at Demo inside," Shanahan responded. "We worked him that way in practice this week, did a good job of it and has three days of it. And we wanted to give him some reps in the game."

The week prior, in advance of the Raiders game, Shanahan told reporters he wasn't planning on playing his starters. Yet Oliver played, which provides further evidence that he has yet to claim the starting job despite being one of San Francisco's bigger-named free agents.

"We’re just trying to find our best three and we think we’ve got a number of options, so we’re trying a number of things out," Shanahan continued.

If Oliver had locked down that spot, the idea of finding "our best three" wouldn't be much of an issue.

Continuing the discussion the Monday after the game (h/t 49ers Webzone), Wilks made it sound as if Oliver getting field time would depend more on matchups than anything else.

"Think about the league and how it's made up," Wilks pointed out. "It's no utopia. So for us to be able to have balance right there is critical. I wouldn't put Demo on a tight end. We may want to go nickel with 12 Personnel. I'm not going to put Demo on a tight end.

"Oliver is going to be on that other tight end. There's going to be certain matchups in the slot right there based off who that guy may be. I'm not going to put Oliver in that situation. Demo may be that guy."

If one had to guess, at least based on what Shanahan and Wilks both said, Lenoir might be preferred at nickel over Oliver, which would be quite the revelation.

Oliver has one more preseason game this Friday to prove his own point, though.

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