Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Resurgent Jason Verrett thrilled to help 49ers DBs rebound against Rams

Oct 18, 2020 at 11:02 PM--

In a season during which injuries to key players have decimated their defense, the San Francisco 49ers have gotten a somewhat unexpected performance from a player who before this year had seen his entire career taken apart due to his own repeated health problems.

The player in question is cornerback Jason Verrett, a one-time Pro Bowler and first-round pick of the Chargers who played in just six games between 2016 and 2019 while various injuries sidetracked his career.

The 49ers first signed Verrett to a one-year deal in 2019 with hopes he'd be able to return to his old form after missing 2018 with a torn Achilles. But injuries got the best of him again in 2019, as he appeared in just one game before an ankle issue put him on injured reserve in October.

Verrett returned to the 49ers in 2020 but wasn't expected to start ahead of Richard Sherman or Emmanuel Moseley. But due to a long list of injuries at cornerback in recent weeks, including Sherman (calf), Moseley (concussion), and former starter Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring), Verrett has been pressed into action as a starter over the past four games.

By and large, Verrett has delivered for the 49ers in recent weeks, with his biggest moment coming in a 24-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams Sunday night.

With the 49ers leading 21-9 late in the third quarter, the Rams faced a fourth-and-goal at the 49ers' two-yard line. On the play, Rams quarterback Jared Goff threw a pass into the end zone, which was intercepted by Verrett. The interception was a key momentum changer for the 49ers, who were able to re-establish control in the fourth quarter and scratch out a win.

"That fourth-and-(two) pick was probably the biggest play of the year," defensive lineman Arik Armstead said following the game. "That was amazing to see. Obviously, you saw how excited everybody was for him."

Whether or not Verrett's interception, which was his first since 2016, is indeed the play of the year to this point for the 49ers is up for debate. But it is certainly on the short list of candidates and couldn't have come at a better time for the 49ers, who were desperate for a win after being blown out 43-17 by the Miami Dolphins the week before.

With Verrett in the lineup against the Rams along with the return of Moseley, the 49ers looked significantly better against the pass after giving up 350 yards and three touchdowns to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Verrett played a big part in holding Rams quarterback Jared Goff to 198 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception on 19-of-38 passing.

"We need him," Armstead said. "We're counting on him right now. So having him and getting E-Man back as well, we feel real good there at the corner position. Hopefully, we can get Sherm back soon too."

Like Armstead, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan had rave reviews for Verrett following the win over the Rams, saying Verrett has been "great" while stepping up at cornerback.

"Jason's a man out there," Shanahan said. "The way he carries himself and the way he likes to mix it up. He loves playing football. He loves the physicality of the game, and he's a great talent in terms of covering. I'm so pumped to have him on our team, and I'm just happy for him that he's been able to get out there again. It was awesome getting E-Man back and just having a little more of our crew there in the secondary. I think the guys fed off it."

It's been a long road for the 29-year-old Verrett, who's admitted in the past that his continued injury issues caused him at one point to consider retirement. But he was able to fight through his adversity and is now in a position many assumed he may not find himself in again.

"It's tough, just being in those dark moments," Verrett said after the win over the Rams. "The mind can take you to places you don't want to go. Unfortunately, that happened to me. But just the grind that I have, the fight that I've got, the family I've come from, I'm always built for moments like those. It was tough, but I know the end result is what I wanted."

And not surprisingly, Verrett seems to be loving every minute of it.

"Man. Words can't even describe the feeling," Verrett said. "I'm just happy to be out there. I love the game. This is what I work for. I work to get back to this stage right here. I'm just trying to leave it all out there on the field every chance I get."

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