Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports


The 49ers Secondary Has Evolved This Year. Will It Be Enough?

Jan 18, 2022 at 1:20 PM--


In the waning seconds of Week 3, Aaron Rodgers drove a dagger through the 49ers' secondary to secure a comeback win and expose San Francisco's vulnerable backfield. That loss sent the Niners careening towards a 2-4 record after an optimistic start, with opposing quarterbacks averaging a passer rating of nearly 110 during their losing skid.

Even after that rough patch, the 49ers have continued to struggle against elite passers and receivers, like the Bengals victory in which Joe Burrow still hooked up with Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase for a combined 191 yards and two touchdowns. But 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has made savvy adjustments in the backfield, and with players like Emmanuel Moseley getting healthy, they may have a better shot this time around.

The key to the secondary's turnaround lies in the emergence of Ambry Thomas, a 2021 draft pick who sat out his last season at Michigan due to COVID concerns. As a result, he's grown this season in a manner you'd expect from a rookie, emerging from a rocky start to give the Niners much-needed consistency at the outside spot entering the playoffs. Early in the season, he wasn't even able to consistently find a spot on the active roster for games, sinking down on the depth chart below Josh Norman, Dontae "The Barnacle" Johnson, and 5th-round pick Deommodore Lenoir.

Since Week 14, Thomas has been a stalwart in the 49ers' secondary. That first start went about as poorly as it could have, with Thomas drawing multiple penalties, getting beat deep, and getting bailed out of another touchdown throw with a lucky penalty. But his stock has gone nearly straight up since then, culminating in his overtime interception against Matthew Stafford to send the 49ers to the playoffs.

The cumulative impact of Moseley's return and Thomas' emergence has transformed an atrocious secondary into one supporting a top-10 scoring defense. San Francisco carried a strong set of defensive games into Sunday's upset against the Cowboys, in which they held Dak Prescott to a meager 23 completions on 43 attempts and a 69.3 passer rating. With the rising performance of San Francisco's cornerbacks, much of the action turned towards the interior of their secondary. K'Waun Williams found himself targeted on a long touchdown reception, but made amends a few series later with a crucial interception. And Williams is no stranger to big games. Both he and the safety tandem of Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt played a huge role in providing a tough security net for the dominant 2019 defense, and their veteran presence is vitally important for a team that might be depleted on the defensive line.

With the Packers having shown that they're capable of slicing and dicing San Francisco's defense (Rodgers threw passes for 25, 42, and 47 yards in that Week 3 showdown), a better performance this go-around is undeniably necessary for the Niners to pull off the upset. High-impact plays in the secondary might be critical, but the Niners haven't been a massive turnover threat this year, with only nine interceptions in the regular season. Jimmie Ward's dropped interception in deep coverage against Dallas is an example of the kind of opportunity the Niners need to convert against first-team All-Pro duo Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams to tip the scales in their favor.

Still, Niners fans can take heart that even when receivers have had big individual games against San Francisco in the past few weeks, DeMeco Ryans' unit has found ways to keep the score manageable. But now they face their biggest test. The 49ers will learn whether Thomas, who held opposing receivers to 24 yards on two catches last week, can be trusted to match up against one of the best wide receivers in the league. But if the secondary can clamp down on the Packers' secondary receiving threats, as well as create a turnover or two, San Francisco might be able to walk out of Lambeau Field with an upset. Defensive line injuries or Aaron Rodgers' right arm might cause it all to come crashing down, and San Francisco's lack of above-average secondary depth might be the death knell that ends their season.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.



Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



Peter King has 49ers at No. 10 in power rankings, predicts Garoppolo-Lance outcome

By David Bonilla
May 23

A year ago, Peter King of NBC Sports listed the San Francisco 49ers at No. 5 within his offseason power rankings. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad dropped five spots this offseason despite coming off an NFC Championship Game appearance. Why the drop from last year's position? For King, it has to do with some questions about the roster. Two of the most prominent offseason uncertainties can be found within the quarterback and wide receiver groups. While Jimmy Garoppolo helped guide the 49ers to their second NFC title appearance in three seasons, the team reportedly hopes to trade the veteran quarterback before Week 1. Whether they can or not remains to be seen.



Jerry Rice says Trey Lance 'has all the tools' to succeed with 49ers

By David Bonilla
May 24

Chris Simms lacks confidence in San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance. The NBC Sports analyst recently stated that he wouldn't have drafted the player had the decision been his to make. "I see the potential. I get it," Simms recently said on his podcast, Chris Simms Unbuttoned. "I'm just not sure it's going to all come together." Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice is less pessimistic about the second-year quarterback's future. The 49ers legend sat down with Lance and discussed the 22-year-old's potential to be great and lead the Bay Area team to success. "I knew Trey was going to be special from the first day I talked to him," Rice said during an interview for Boardroom (h/t



Steve Young reveals this year's 49ers recipient of the Dwight Clark Legacy Award

By David Bonilla
May 18

Last year, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle became the first-ever recipient of the Dwight Clark Legacy Award. It's an honor presented to a 49ers player who best exemplifies the late receiver's spirit of teamwork. According to Steve Young, this year's recipient will be defensive lineman Arik Armstead. The Hall of Fame quarterback revealed the news on Wednesday morning during KNBR's Murph & Mac show. Of course, the guest list on the website for the June 1 event, the Dwight Clark Legacy Series, likely hinted that Armstead would be the recipient. The



49ers sign TE Tyler Kroft to a one-year deal, waive DL Chris Slayton

By David Bonilla
May 23

According to his agent, the San Francisco 49ers are signing tight end Tyler Kroft to a one-year deal. The news was first spotted and reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN. The team will need to make a corresponding roster move to make room for the signing. Former Jets' and Bills' TE Tyler Kroft reached agreement on. A one-year deal with the SF 49ers, per his agent @MikeMcCartney7.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 23,


Featured

Trending News

Share 49ersWebzone