Calling all cornerbacks
Niner Report|October 2021
Loss of Verrett exposes 49ers’ thin depth at CB
Craig Massei

It didn’t take long for the 49ers’ cornerback conundrum to become a full-out red alert.

But here comes accomplished veterans Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick. And there goes exciting rookie fifth-round draft pick Deommodore Lenoir.

Maybe that blend of experience and youth will give San Francisco what it has been lacking and looking for all along on what was shaping up this summer as the weakest position on a stocked roster bent on getting back into Super Bowl contention.

The 49ers better hope so. Because they just got a whole lot weaker when No. 1 cornerback and defensive leader Jason Verrett was lost for the season in Week 1 with a torn ACL, the latest in a long line of injuries that have sabotaged his promising career.

“Guys have stepped in and done really well,” 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. “But you don’t compensate for the loss of a guy like Verrett. He’s a true pro, a great man, been an awesome leader for us. So it’s devastating to lose a guy like that, man. He’s one of the hearts and souls of our backend. It’s devastating news. You don’t replace a guy like Verrett.”

How well San Francisco can manage to do just that will likely play a significant factor in how well the team responds at a position that already was thin on veteran experience, sending the 49ers scrambling to add the best veterans still available on the open market in September and forcing them to reconfigure their plans at the position.

Norman, a first-team All-Pro in 2015 with Carolina, had been courted by the 49ers for several months as the team evaluated what it had at cornerback during the summer and Norman waited patiently for an opportunity of his liking as he entered his 10th NFL season at age 33. Norman narrowed his choices to the 49ers and a few other suitors.

With the 49ers realizing after the preseason that they needed more veteran insurance due to injuries and inexperience at the position, the team finally agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Norman, Sept. 6 — six days before San Francisco’s season opener at Detroit for which Norman was not in uniform.

“Blessed and glad to be here, that’s for sure,” Norman said. “They’ve got 110 percent of me and I’m going to give 110 percent of everything I have for them. Let me come in and let me be myself and be a leader.”

As it turned out, the 49ers could have used even a rusty Norman during the furious finish of San Francisco’s 41-33 victory against the Lions.

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