Drake Jackson’s usage might vary week to week; Young 49ers CBs have an opportunity vs. Packers

Aug 10, 2022 at 1:44 PM--

Maybe soon, Drake Jackson will become the complementary bookend to Nick Bosa that the San Francisco 49ers envisioned for Dee Ford. That was the hope when the team used its first selection in this year's draft, a second-round pick, on the defensive end out of USC.

DeMeco Ryans is in his second year as the 49ers' defensive coordinator. He is working to ensure young players like Jackson are prepared for the rigors of an NFL season. He also wants to put those players in the best position to succeed. Their success is the 49ers' success, after all. For now, it looks like the 49ers have Samson Ebukam penciled in as the starter opposite Bosa. That role should eventually land with Jackson.

"With Drake, he's coming along," Ryans told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "He's doing a good job for us. Run game, pass game, he's been doing a good job as a rookie. He's continuing to grow and develop, and when the time comes for him and how we'll use him, it depends on who's up on game day, how many guys we have, and we'll utilize those guys as best we can to execute a game plan and go out and win.

"So whatever it takes for Drake, whatever that best position is, that's where he'll be. We want to put him in position to be successful and get after the quarterback."

The 49ers drafting Jackson reunited him with his former college teammate, safety Talanoa Hufanga. Jackson's athleticism has impressed his new teammates, especially considering the defensive lineman's size.

"Drake is my dog. He for sure is a great dude, first off," Hufanga said. "I've been with him for two years at USC before here. Great guy off the field, first off. I think it's kind of [an] understanding of why he was a second-round pick—he's just explosive.

"This guy can bend really well around the edge. I don't think you guys see a lot of 260, 270 guys doing cartwheel backflips. A guy like Drake Jackson can just do it all, so I'm excited to play with him again, and just, hopefully, he can make some plays just like he did in college, and I'd love to celebrate with him, for sure."

Hufanga is part of a revamped defensive backfield that includes a lot of young talent at cornerback. That younger talent will have an opportunity to showcase itself during the 49ers' preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers on Friday. Starters Emmanuel Moseley and Charvarius Ward aren't expected to play. Moseley has been dealing with a hamstring strain, while Ward is sidelined for a couple of weeks with what Kyle Shanahan called a "muscle strain."

"It's a great opportunity," Ryans said. "When you do have injuries, it sucks when you have guys who are out or guys miss some time, but it's also, for guys who are behind them, this is your opportunity. Step up, showcase what you can do. Showcase what you can add to our team. What type of value are you adding to our team?

"So these guys will get to showcase that. And the depth there at the corner position, a lot of guys competing, a lot of guys battling for spots on our team, so what an opportunity for guys to step up and own it and take it."

One of those young cornerbacks is fifth-round draft pick Samuel Womack. Hufanga has typically been the first player on the practice field each day, arriving well ahead of most of his teammates. Womack has been close behind Hufanga's arrival, though.

"When I'm out there, I see him out there with me," Hufanga said. "You can just take those little things and those details of how they show up to work. If that's the first thing, you don't have to see what the pads are like when they're on. You can just see how he shows up to work. One of the first guys in the building as well."

While Womack isn't competing for an outside cornerback spot, he has been part of the nickel cornerback competition. He even took first-team snaps at that spot on Wednesday, per Rohan Chakravarthi.

"But yeah, he's aggressive," Hufanga added. "He can cover. He can fit the run really well. People knock him for his lack of size (5-9), but he plays way bigger than that, for sure."

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