The undrafted rookie has impressed in training camp and preseason games.
Every year in the NFL something happens that allows a player who might have gone unnoticed otherwise, to make his mark on the team that brought him to training camp.
For undrafted rookie S Lorenzo Jerome, it was injuries to newly converted S Jimmie Ward (hamstring) and backup S Jaquiski Tarrt (ribs). This allowed the man from St. Francis to showcase his abilities not only in practice but in the first two preseason contests as well.
Of course there are many times this has happened where the player coming in does not take the opportunity and run with it. This is not the case with Jerome, not even close. He has all but earned a roster spot, even with Ward being activated from the Physically Unable To Perform (PUP) List on Wednesday.
This will be Ward's first stint at safety in the NFL and there is some concern as to how he’ll take to it. The fact that he has been hurt through training camp and the first two preseason games means he’ll have an uphill battle.
However Jerome is a rookie and an undrafted one at that, which means that Ward most likely will supplant him as the starter alongside Eric Reid once the regular season commences on September 10.
He has already shown flashes on the field in OTA’s, practices, and exhibition games. Last week against Denver he recognized and blew up a bubble screen. On the play he held Denver WR Bennie Fowler to a 1-yard gain. Later in the game he stopped RB C.J. Anderson at the 1-yard line with a great tackle, saving a touchdown.
Even with his stellar play last week, Ward is the assumed starter at the position. These are preseason games after all and with that reality will come the regular season. Defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh knows that his unit is going to have little room for error.
The offense is by most accounts, not expected to produce a great deal, which could force the defense to see the field more than they would like. Veteran presence on and off the field is going to be integral to whatever success the team will have in 2017. That’s where Ward and others come in.
Ward possess the ability to play both positions as was evidenced by the fact that he played safety in college at Northern Illinois and transitioned to nickel corner and then starting outside corner in the NFL. The fact that the 49ers appear to be lacking in talent on the outside could result in Ward being moved back there and Jerome battling Tarrt for the other starting safety position.
Much will depend on how the defense and more importantly,Ward fares against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football this weekend. There is due to be some rust that the returning defensive back will have to shake off as he sees more time on field, this alone may be cause for the coaching staff to move him back to corner.
If Jerome has proven one thing so far, it’s that even if he loses the starting safety job, he is almost assured of not losing his spot on the 53-man roster. With that, it appears the 49ers have found a diamond in the rough from St. Francis.