5 backups who have stepped up a ton for the 49ers in 2023

The 49ers control their destiny in the NFC, holding the No. 1 seed with four games left. Part of this has been due to some backup players stepping up when needed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v San Francisco 49ers
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Ambry Thomas
Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

Backup who stepped up No. 4: Ambry Thomas, Cornerback

It's safe to say that the 49ers didn't have cornerback Ambry Thomas much in mind when they were figuring out how to shore up the secondary for 2023 and beyond.

The team brought in Isaiah Oliver to serve as the slot corner, with Deommodore Lenoir and Charvarius Ward on the outside. With promising young backups Darrell Luter Jr. and Samuel Womack in the wings, Thomas was someone firmly on the outer as someone who hadn't developed as much as the 49ers had hoped.

Maybe that was the kick that Thomas needed, because a combination of injuries to players above him on the depth chart, Oliver being benched, Lenoir being moved to the slot and his own personal development have turned Thomas into a handy cornerback.

Actually handy might be doing him a disservice, Thomas has thrived after being thrust into a starting role. With him (and Lenoir) flourishing in their roles, it's turned a position of concern on defense into...well maybe not a strength (at least relative to the rest of the defense), but not something that has 49ers fans gritting their teeth every week.