Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Robert Saleh believes Ahkello Witherspoon can rebound as cornerback competition heats up

Aug 27, 2020 at 6:20 AM--

Ahkello Witherspoon is entering his fourth season as a pro and is looking to redeem himself. He started last season strong, earning career-best back-to-back Pro Football Focus grades during Weeks 1 and 2. There was a drop-off in Week 3, and then he suffered a foot sprain and missed the next seven weeks.

Witherspoon struggled upon returning to the football field and was eventually pulled in favor of Emmanuel Moseley.

While most expect Moseley to start across from Richard Sherman this season, nothing is being handed to him. He'll need to earn that role, competing against Witherspoon and Jason Verrett.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was asked on Wednesday about the competition between Witherspoon and Moseley.

"They both picked up where they've left off in terms of Ahkello from the first three games of the season, from training and OTAs," Saleh responded. "I know he came back from his injury, and it wasn't as good as it was before his injury, which he agrees with, but he looks like he did during training camp a year ago. He's getting better every day."

That's good news for Witherspoon, who seeks to rebound and reclaim his starting job. He seems to be stacking his days and showing coaches that he can make an impact on defense.

"Moseley's stepped in, and he's picked up where he's left off," Saleh continued. "Verrett looks good. His foot speed and all that stuff is all there. Now, it's just a matter of getting reps and getting comfortable."

Then you have others competing for positioning on the depth chart. Depth could be significant, heading into a season where one mistake or lack of judgment concerning COVID-19 could wipe out much of a position group — or more — for a couple of games. That could derail a team's season.

"D.J. has been competing his butt off, Dontae Johnson," Saleh said. "Tim Harris had a really good play in the red zone today. It's a group that's competing, and so it's cool to see them all work and try to bring everything together.

"... It's going to be our job to try to find ways to make sure that competition is as fair as possible, where those guys get a chance to showcase all their skills."

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