Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Why Ambry Thomas is ‘in a great spot’ despite 49ers’ offseason CB additions

May 27, 2022 at 10:09 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers bolstered their cornerback group this offseason. The team added Charvarius Ward via free agency and then drafted Samuel Womack and Tariq Castro-Fields. As a result, fewer see the cornerback position as a significant weakness. There is considerable depth there now, with Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, and the potential return of Jason Verrett.

Cornerback Ambry Thomas struggled early but ended hot during his rookie 2021 campaign. So what do the offseason additions mean for the second-year cornerback who started the final five games of last season and two playoff games?

"The fact that AT, he earned that opportunity [to start] as he kept coming through the season," defensive pass-game specialist and secondary coach Cory Undlin said this week, via the team's official YouTube channel. "But he didn't play in 2020, so I think that gap ... that's a long time when you sit out a year, COVID or not.

"And so, once he got up to speed and got to the point where he was playing fast enough, and then to be able to go out there in big games and play in big games, that was more important than probably anything for him and his growth. Now, you definitely feel like he's on the rise.

"Now, you add more competition, and competition is only good for everybody when you've got a bunch of guys that can play at a high level."

The Week 16 game against the Tennessee Titans seemed to be a turning point for Thomas. That's when his Pro Football Focus coverage grade went from abysmal to pretty good. And that continued through the postseason. Thomas finished the season with 23 tackles, a tackle for a loss, an interception, and five passes defensed through 12 game appearances and five starts.

After a strong finish, how do you convey to a young player that he will have to work even harder to earn playing time after the team brought in others who seek the same thing?

"We'd go into my office, and I'd show him all the plays that he wasn't that good," Undlin shared. "And [I'd say], 'Just so you know, we've got a lot of work to do here.' He knows that.

"And then, just like you do, no matter who's in your room, we'll rotate those guys through. Everyone's getting an opportunity to play, and then when we get to the end of training camp, we'll figure it out. That's really up to them. It's not up to me. Everybody's going to get the same amount of reps, and then we'll see who ends up walking away with it at the end.

Undlin added, "I think [Thomas is] in a great spot. He understands all that."

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