Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The “X-Factor” on the 49ers Defense

Rohan Chakravarthi
Nov 25, 2021 at 11:30 AM--

When thinking about the 49ers defense, who comes to mind? Normally, it's a variety of Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, with an occasional sprinkle of Arik Armstead and Dee Ford.

Over the course of this season, there have been a few standouts; Jimmie Ward and Azeez Al-Shaair most notably, but with all of the recognition towards those specific players, there has been one under-the-radar "X-Factor"—cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.

As part of a secondary that has arguably been San Francisco's biggest defensive flaw, Moseley has been overshadowed, both by the good play of Jimmie Ward, but also by the inconsistencies from the rest of the group.

Moseley, who is just 25, re-signed with the 49ers in the offseason on a 2-year, $10 million deal, and has most certainly outperformed standards since coming to San Francisco as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL Draft.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has even agreed that Moseley's developed admirably, and went as far as to say that the cornerback has yet to reach his full potential.

During Week 1 of San Francisco's season, then-top-corner Jason Verrett suffered an ACL tear during garbage time of what was, at that point, a blowout, effectively ending his season.

This season, with San Francisco in need of consistency in the secondary, Moseley has stepped up as a true No. 1 corner, with ten passes defended, which is fifth best in the NFL. In addition, Moseley's allowed a completion percentage of just 56.3% and a passer rating of just 73.4 this season.

To put that into context, only the Jacksonville Jaguars have an average passer rating below Moseley's rate, showcasing how San Francisco's top cornerback has shutdown opponents at an above-average level.

Moseley's leap as a top-level corner has transformed this San Francisco defense, as they're currently third in the NFL in passing yards allowed, although the 49ers have been known for their knack of defensive pass interference penalties. In addition, San Francisco's defense ranks seventh in yards per play at 5.3, and, more importantly, 12th in opponent 3rd down conversion rate at 39.02%, per TeamRankings.

One impressive stat that Moseley's accumulated this season is that he's yet to allow a touchdown despite being targeted 48 times, trailing only the Buffalo Bills' TreDavious White for the most targeted defensive back without allowing a single touchdown.

With a multitude of key free agents following the 2021 season, Emmanuel Moseley is a fixture that the 49ers have for another season, and will be a building block in the secondary, regardless of how they improve the position in the offseason, be it during free agency or the NFL Draft.

In his first true year as a starter, Moseley has exceeded all expectations, but will face one of his biggest, if not the biggest test he's faced all season in Justin Jefferson and the high-powered Minnesota Vikings offense that is also looking for their sixth win of the season in order to stay in the postseason race.
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