Rashard Robinson. That’s all you need to know about the 49ers cornerbacks going into 2017. The 49ers were so thin at corner, Robinson became the de facto starter and was hyped up as such. It turns out, Robinson was really good at running his mouth, but average at best at playing football.
This year, Ahkello Witherspoon steps into a starting role to begin the season when he wrenched the job from Dontae Johnson last year. This was not hard to do, but Ahkello’s play showed he had more than earned the role. The 49ers also went and grabbed Richard Sherman, someone who is not only better at talking than Robinson, but also extremely good at playing football as well. This of course means an upgrade. Add in Jimmie Ward serving as the primary backup outside, and that’s more of an upgrade (when he’s healthy). Nickel corner brings K’Waun Williams back after an extension, with rookie D.J. Reed earning backup work there.
To round out the group, rookie Tarvarius Moore and Greg Mabin provide additional depth behind Ahkello Witherspoon, and Moore might be the heir apparent to Sherman in a couple years. The rookie has had a great camp and the arrow is pointing up for what he can do in a pro-style defense.
2017 CB depth chart
LCB: Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser
RCB: Dontae Johnson, Ahkello Witherspoon
Nickel: K’Waun Williams
2018 CB depth chart
LCB: Richard Sherman, Jimmie Ward, Greg Mabin
RCB: Ahkello Witherspoon, Tarvarius Moore
Nickel: K’Waun Williams, D.J. Reed
It may not look it, but the secondary has been heavily upgraded. Gone are Johnson and Robinson, in are Sherman and Witherspoon to man the starting positions. Ward, Mabin, and Moore will supply solid depth.
The only issue is Williams who has Reed for a backup in the slot. Reed looked good in the preseason, but he’s a rookie and is backup at both slot corner and the free safety position. Williams had a solid year to earn his contract extension, and if he gets hurt, that leaves a question about slot coverage.
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Are the 49ers better, worse or the same at cornerback compared to the start of 2017?
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