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49ers to place Ahkello Witherspoon on IR, Tarvarius Moore will replace him in starting lineup

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The 49ers get a look at another young player to close out the season.

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The San Francisco 49ers will place cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on injured reserve due to a PCL strain suffered in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks. Witherspoon suffered the injury on the opening defensive drive, and head coach Kyle Shanahan announced the move on Monday. The team has not formally placed him on IR, but will do so once they decide who to sign or promote from the practice squad.

Rookie Tarvarius Moore replaced Witherspoon in the lineup, and Shanahan confirmed Moore will remain in the starting lineup the final two weeks. He will start opposite Richard Sherman, and Greg Mabin is the primary backup. Rookie Tarvarus McFadden is a candidate promotion, but the team will likely bring in some other cornerbacks for workouts on Tuesday.

Moore had his ups and downs against Seattle, but he seemed to improve as the game went on. The Seahawks went after him right away and Russell Wilson found Doug Baldwin for the game-opening touchdown. Moore was targeted ten times and gave up five receptions for 37 yards, per Pro Football Focus. They graded him fairly poorly as he gave up the touchdown and two first downs.

Shanahan acknowledged the struggles, but also said he thought Moore improved as the game wore on. Considering he played more defensive snaps against Seattle than he had the entire rest of the season, it’s not surprising he had some inconsistencies. He’ll head into this week knowing he is getting the first team reps the rest of the way, which hopefully builds some confidence the rest of the way.

The 49ers face the Chicago Bears in Week 16 and the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. Moore could find himself opposite the likes of Allen Robinson or rookie Anthony Miller in Week 16, and then Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods in Week 17. Suffice to say, he’ll face some stiff challenges that will provide a critical learning experience as the 49ers look ahead to 2019.