• Reggie Cires

49ers Training Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

Image Credit: 49ers.com

It is finally here! After staring at summer league basketball games and watching ESPN in awe just to find out that Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Wimbledon tournament were the only things on, it is time to bask in the glory that football encapsulates, the NFL Training Camp is here.

Get your pencils, it is time to breakdown the 49ers’ secondary and key players that will look to use training camp to bat eyes and make the cut in the 2018 NFL season

Richard Sherman

After signing a three-year $39 million contract with the 49ers on March 10th earlier this year, cornerback Richard Sherman looks to bounce back from his injury and prove his doubters wrong.

At the left cornerback position, there are many questions as to how Richard Sherman will rebound from his Achilles surgery.

The staff has and will continue to work very hard to help Sherman get through the stages of his rehab to fully recover from his Achilles injury and get him back on the field.

Sherman has proved to be a positive addition from a veteran perspective, as the secondary has already benefited from his leadership and concept knowledge of the Cover-3 Zone Defense.

The 49ers did not give Richard Sherman a “prove-it” contract with only $3 million guaranteed with strong incentives to not use him as a starter in this upcoming season.

When he was used at the left as the starting cornerback in Seattle, Sherman shined and served as an integral part to their most successful run in franchise history.

The 49ers hope to rekindle that same tenacity and will closely monitor Sherman’s rehab throughout training camp and see if he is suited to play come time of the 2018 NFL season.

It is safe to say that if he is healthy come time of the regular season, Sherman is a lock to make the cut and become the starter for the 2018 season.

Ahkello Witherspoon

Last season, Witherspoon started nine games and recorded 28 tackles along with 42 yards on 2 interceptions.

At the right cornerback position, Ahkello Witherspoon performed exceptionally well in his rookie season and has continued to bat eyes this offseason.

"I think if you put on tape of Ahkello from last year’s OTAs and now, you wouldn’t have any idea it’s him," . "Just the steps we took offseason, the confidence – he believes in himself now. He knows he can do it now, and he believes he can do it at a very high level. To see him actually day by day get better on things has been a lot of fun to watch. He takes things seriously. He’s really an intelligent person. He studies the tape and he learns quickly from his mistakes. I think day by day you do see him get better and you do see him get more confident. I’m very excited for him."

After one year in the NFL, expectations are high for Ahkello Witherspoon in the secondary as he is both gaining veteran knowledge from cornerback Richard Sherman and engaging with his film from the previous season.

These factors and much more indicate that the 49ers will pair Witherspoon with Sherman in the secondary and hope that he will play a large role on the field in his expected start come week 1 of the 2018 NFL Season.

Jimmie Ward

Safety Jimmie Ward is definitely a lock for the team’s roster. But after playing multiple positions on the field throughout the regular season,


“This one game I had to play nickel, corner, and safety. Two guys went down at corner. KK [K’Waun Williams] kinda got a little banged up and he stayed at slot — and I had to go to corner, nickel, then back to safety. Rashard [Robinson] came back in the game. So right now they’re just really preparing me, just in case. The season is long and guys get banged up. It’s the NFL. So I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing right now.”

To provide more depth, the 49ers planned to test out Ward at the outside cornerback position during the offseason, while getting reps at safety, to provide as a potential backup to Richard Sherman.

“Jimmie Ward has played some outside corner in his career,” , “We’re going to experiment with that this offseason and see if that’s viable.”

While Sherman continues to recover from two Achilles surgeries, Ward continues to undergo his training and play as both a cornerback and safety and will potentially take another spot among the cornerback depth chart.

K'Waun Williams

Before the 2017 NFL Season, K’Wuan Williams signed a one-year deal with the 49ers for $690,000.

He then went on to win the starting job with his performance in both training camp and preseason and quickly gained a 3-year extension worth up to $10 million.

Williams then finished the season with five pass deflections and one interception, to go along with 54 total tackles. He was proficient in pass coverage but stood out in his run defense.

As a defensive backs coach, you do not want cornerbacks constantly facing run stopping opportunities; but after watching film, Williams was regularly making stops, as opposed to getting to a running back after several yards already gained.

After Richard Sherman’s signing, it is certain that the 49ers want their secondary to significantly improve in the upcoming NFL season.

Although Williams will be a lock on the 49ers cornerback depth chart, he will have to compete in training camp against 4-time NFL Pro-Bowler Richard Sherman to earn the starting job.

After his performance in the 2017 season, it is difficult to see Williams have the possibility of losing his starting job, but Williams will provide depth to the 49ers’ secondary as a nickel back and perhaps serve as a starter if Sherman is deemed “incapable” come time of the regular season.

Tyvis Powell

Tyvis Powell’s performance as of late and his significant practice time at cornerback in OTA’s and minicamp has put him on the stronger side of the bubble and his play in training camp will determine whether or not he will provide depth to the 49ers’ secondary.

Powell hopes to make a roster spot as the No.4 or No. 5 cornerback in the upcoming NFL season.

Weak BUBBLE Alert: Tavarus McFadden

San Francisco stockpiled defensive backs this offseason, including signing All-Pro corner Richard Sherman. Both he and Ahkello Witherspoon are projected to be the starters on the outside, with K’Wuan Williams and Tyvis Powell supplementing depth.

However, a name that was increasingly mentioned within OTA’s and minicamp was Tarvarus McFadden.

McFadden was an undrafted free agent that was signed by the 49ers on May 1st, 2018. McFadden’s build and long arms is comparable to that of Richard Sherman’s, providing Robert Saleh the height difference needed to succeed in his Cover-3 Scheme.

The only main issue circulating McFadden is his speed. In the NFL Combine, his dismal 4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash led teams to pass on him in the draft.

McFadden is a rising star as he has already had a stellar performance within mini-camp.

If McFadden has a strong showing in training camp and throughout the Preseason, it could keep him on the stronger side of things.

McFadden’s upside, particularly if he can contribute on special teams, could earn him a spot on the roster as the 49ers No. 5 or No. 6 corner on the depth chart.


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