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Richard Sherman explains why the 49ers secondary should be much-improved in 2019

May 9, 2019 at 1:43 PM--

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman played through injuries last season, his first with the San Francisco 49ers. He still managed to start 14 games and was clearly the team's best defensive back. Still, Sherman believes he can be better and expects to be much-improved in 2019.

"I'm much healthier," Sherman recently told Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee. "I was kind of out there on one leg (last year)."

Sherman recently had sutures, initially put in as part of the rehab process, removed from his surgically repaired Achilles. They bothered him for much of the season. Sherman told SI's Albert Breer in April that he was never better than about 80 percent healthy last year. Even that estimate was from later in the season.

General manager John Lynch expects to see a much-improved Sherman this season.

"I think my own feeling, we'll see a better version of Richard Sherman this year because he's a year further away from those procedures and had that cleanup," Lynch said in April. "We'll see, but I'm hopeful."

A 20 percent better Sherman will improve the 49ers secondary. While the team mostly ignored the safety position this offseason, it did use its final selection in last month's draft to select cornerback Tim Harris of Virginia.

San Francisco also gambled by signing often-injured cornerback Jason Verrett, who it believes can return to his Pro Bowl form when healthy.

"I would also say, at the corner position, we went out there and got Jason Verrett, and history says he's been banged up," Lynch said. "But we took a flyer on that because, when healthy, he's one heck of a football player."

Sherman also identified another upgrade that could benefit the secondary — the 49ers aggressively bolstering their pass rush.

"The secondary wasn't the issue last year," Sherman told Biderman. "We'd lose games by a touchdown down the stretch, the last second."

San Francisco added bookend pass rushers in Dee Ford and Nick Bosa. The former came via a trade while the latter was the No. 2 overall draft pick. Ford had a career-high 13 sacks in 2018 while Bosa racked up 17.5 in just over two seasons with the Buckeyes. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner led the 49ers with a career-high 12 sacks in 2018.

Sherman believes the offseason additions will make an immediate impact on the defense's ability to pressure quarterbacks.

"We needed guys to hit (the quarterback) in the face," Sherman said. "You need a few of them. Now we have guys that can rotate in and rotate out and put pressure."

He also noted that having quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back could be another big boost for the 49ers in 2019.

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