The San Francisco 49ers will scrimmage on Friday, though I’m not sure how long the starters will play.
1. Defensive Back Tarvarius Moore.
He’s the backup free safety behind Jimmie Ward, whom the 49ers gave a three-year, $28.5 million contract this offseason. So barring injury, Moore won’t become a starter soon. But new 49ers defensive backs coach Tony Oden has incorporated more man-to-man coverage into the defense, and Moore clearly is the 49ers’ best defensive back in man-to-man coverage.
Richard Sherman is elite in zone coverage, but no longer fast enough to cover deep crossing routes man to man. Moore can cover all types of routes. Plus he can cover tight ends, running backs and even wide receivers. He played cornerback as a rookie in 2018, and has played some nickelback in camp because starter K’Waun Williams is out with a calf injury. Eventually, the 49ers might want to move Moore back to corner — he might be better than Ahkello Witherspoon and Jason Verrett.
Everything that I said about Jared Goff can be applied to Jimmy Garoppolo. Actually, that’s not true. Garoppolo is a more talented thrower and his quick release has allowed Kyle Shanahan to lean heavily on quick-hitting throws, which limits the thinking his still-inexperienced quarterback has to do in the pocket. The longer Garoppolo has to hold onto the ball, the worse he gets. Luckily, he has a coach who understands his limitations and has built an offense that highlights his strengths. Sometimes, like in the Super Bowl, it’s not enough to protect Jimmy G from himself; but those times have become increasingly rare. And as long a Shanahan is calling the plays, a quarterback like Garoppolo will be enough to keep the offense humming along.
49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh sees it as healthy competition and prefers to ask his players to dial it down than to need for them to ramp it up.
“It’s better to say ‘Whoa’ than ‘Giddy-up,’” Saleh said. “You can be a gentleman off the field, but when that helmet goes on as a linebacker, and really as a football player in general, and you step between the white lines, there’s a trigger mentally that puts you into a different mindset with regards to physicality and presence.”
Saleh believes that coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have brought in players with the right type of character. Consequently, he isn’t worried about skirmishes on the field, knowing they are not malicious.
“It’s one thing if it started because of one person is being cheap when we’re not taking care of each other on the practice field,” Saleh said. “It’s another thing where it just gets heated because you’ve been competing your tails off with one another.”
The 49ers’ offense is very similar to what Austin was a part of during his time with the Rams, but he still sees it as a challenge. The seven-year vet has been working with the ones and twos but knows there’s still a lot of work ahead.
“It’s a lot of learning,” Austin said Wednesday. “You can’t be a dummy and be in this offense. You got to be smart. You got to be able to go on the fly. It’s challenging, That’s what I like about it. You got to come in ready to work every day.”
“I played with Wes when I was in St. Louis so I know his mindset,” Austin said. “I know how he comes to work. It’s just different looking at him as a coach, not teammate. He’s awesome for us.”
But here we are late in 2020 camp and Verrett certainly looks right. He’s very near his peak running speed of over 22 mph and, most importantly, he’s attacking and breaking passes up with visible confidence. Wednesday’s practice saw an overpowering PBU against receiver Tavon Austin. Verrett flexed in celebration. He’ll make the roster. There’s a new question now: Will Verrett start opposite Richard Sherman?
Givens, meanwhile, is typical of modern-day defensive tackles. At 6-1, he’s smaller than a traditional interior lineman. But he’s low to the ground, plays with good leverage and hits home by being quicker than his opponent. He’s precisely the kind of attacking interior lineman his position coach, Kris Kocurek, wants. Givens could fill the role Sheldon Day had last season.
Cyprien, 30, would provide the 49ers with experience at strong safety, something they may need considering starter Jaquiski Tartt has missed 19 games due to injury over the last three seasons. Cyprien doesn’t have Tartt’s ability in coverage. But he’s familiar with the defensive scheme from his four seasons in Jacksonville, and he had 128 tackles in 2016.
He also doesn’t seem interested in joining the 49ers’ practice squad. When asked about possibly being one of the veterans on this year’s practice squad, he said: “To be honest with you, no. I wouldn’t be on a practice squad.”