A sleeper has emerged in the San Francisco 49ers group of defensive backs this preseason. While rookie Samuel Womack and free-agent acquisition Charvarius Ward have gotten the bulk of the attention, rookie undrafted free agent Qwuantrezz Knight out of UCLA is quietly making a strong case for the Niners' 53-man roster. Knight stood out in joint practices against the Vikings on Thursday, where he primarily played safety and intercepted a pass from Kellen Mond.
49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was asked about Knight after joint practice on Thursday, and Ryans heaped plenty of praise on the 24-year-old.
Later during his media availability, Ryans mentioned Knight alongside Samuel Womack and Deommodore Lenoir when he was asked about why the staff was confident enough in their depth at nickel corner to release veteran corner Darqueze Dennard.
Knight’s easiest path seems likely to come at safety, but he has a unique skill set that could help him see some time at nickel in certain circumstances. Womack and Lenoir are both superior cover players, but neither has Knight’s knack for making physical plays in the backfield.
During Knight’s final three collegiate seasons, he racked up 23.5 tackles for loss and five sacks across 30 games. In contrast, Lenoir and Womack recorded just 8.5 tackles for loss and half a sack in their 86 college games (Lenoir had one tackle for loss and zero sacks as a rookie). Former Niners nickel corner K’Waun Williams excelled against the run and as a blitzer. Knight could be a more physical option in the slot.
Here’s DeMeco Ryans’ full comment on Qwuantrezz Knight:
“Q [Qwuantrezz] Knight, he’s done a great job, and it was fun to see for him these past two days. We had to move him around a lot because of the injuries on our backend. He’s done a great job of just being a smart player who can move around, play multiple positions, and be a guy you can count on. It was fun to see him make a few plays for us. He definitely brings some energy to our defense. He’s always going to make at least one or two plays a day that sparks some energy for the defense. It’s fun to see Q-Knight making plays.”