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Football Outsiders: 49ers biggest roster hole is in the secondary

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In a surprise to none of us. Now we just wait for someone to step up

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Football Outsiders examined the biggest roster hole for all 32 teams now that the NFL Draft is over. For the San Francisco 49ers, it’s something that we have talked about quite a bit. Football Outsiders, like many, believe it’s the secondary. Here’s what they had to say:

When we listed the secondary as San Francisco’s biggest hole in February, we got feedback from 49ers faithful who insisted that, no, the team needed pass-rushers more than anything else. Well, after the big-ticket acquisitions of free agent Dee Ford and second overall draft pick Nick Bosa, the pass rush ain’t a problem no more, but we’re still left wondering what’s going to happen when opposing quarterbacks don’t hit the turf. The 49ers have added only two defensive backs since the season ended, a pair of corners: free-agent signee Jason Verrett, who has missed 39 of 64 games since the Chargers took him in the first round in 2014, and Tim Harris, a sixth-round rookie out of Virginia who was the 24th corner off the board. It could be another long year for Ahkello Witherspoon and K’Waun Williams, and a real catastrophe if Richard Sherman’s play starts to slip at age 31.

The 49ers addressed their secondary by drafting Nick Bosa. It may not be fair to Bosa, but that’s the pressure that will be on him. The mindset is that if Bosa performs like we know he is capable, that masks any talent deficiencies in the secondary. I don’t agree with the decision to ignore secondary until the sixth round—especially in a class that was littered with talent, but I also understand that now all we can do is wait and see.

Verrett’s talent is undeniable, but he has to play. Harris comes with an injury history as well, but he is a long cornerback that is a high-end athlete. Harris played a lot of the types of coverage that the 49ers use, like off-coverage and press-bail. The fit is there. As far as Sherman, even at 80%, he is a valuable player. He’s never really relied on athleticism, so I don’t think it’s fair to expect his play to slip.

This season will be a good case in the argument debating whether coverage or pass rush is more important. Judging by the moves the 49ers have made, they believe the answer is pass rush. We’ll see if one of these younger players take the next step forward during training camp.