Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan impressed with rookie CB Ambry Thomas’ improved play

Jan 18, 2022 at 11:51 AM--

Ambry Thomas' first NFL start came in Week 14, and it was a miserable outing. Yes, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-23, but the rookie cornerback surrendered three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown while being responsible for two penalties. Thomas earned the lowest overall Pro Football Focus grade of his six starts in that game. Those numbers have greatly improved since then.

Thomas' 73.4 overall grade in Sunday's playoff win against the Dallas Cowboys was the rookie's highest of the season. He allowed two targets for 24 yards and just four total yards after the catch while recording a pass breakup.

Thomas was inactive for five of the 49ers' first seven games. The word "bust" was being prematurely thrown out by some. The cornerback is showing fans why you shouldn't be quick to write off a young player.

Thomas opted out of his 2020 collegiate season due to COVID-19 concerns. The 49ers felt they had a future starting cornerback in Thomas but ackowledged that he needed time to develop.

"I really feel convicted that we've got a starting corner for years to come," general manager John Lynch said in December. "And that's what we thought when we drafted him. We also knew that there was some inherent physical development that needed to take place, and I think that still remains. And we're not going to fix that this year. He's just got to kind of grow into his body a little bit."

Lynch has a lot of belief in Thomas' NFL future, but he isn't the only one. The rookie's outing against the Cowboys was impressive, and could be a preview of things to come for the 22-year-old.

"Yeah, I thought he played a real good game, especially that first half," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Monday. "He came out early in the first quarter and [was] throwing his body around. [Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot] got to him a couple of times, just clean, and that's a guy you don't want to have to tackle who gets a head-start like that clean. And he threw his body in there and took it and got him down, which I was real impressed with.

"I thought [defensive coordinator] DeMeco [Ryans] did a good job mixing the coverages up, sometimes cloud and sometimes not, and trying to keep them a little bit off, which makes it a little bit harder for guys to isolate on who they want to attack. But I was real impressed with the Ambry's game."

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