Naming cornerback Emmanuel Moseley the starter may be obvious to some fans. Truth is the San Francisco 49ers still love the potential of veteran Ahkello Witherspoon.
The 2019 season was basically Moseley’s rookie season. The year before, Moseley signed as an undrafted free agent and was cut at the end of the preseason, then signed to the practice squad. Moseley was promoted and active for the Week 9 contest vs the Raiders, but played only three special team snaps and was placed on Injured Reserve the following day after suffering a shoulder injury.
Witherspoon had a different path. He was the 49ers third-round pick in 2017 and entered his third season as a starter in 2019.
Here are their coverage statistics including the playoffs:
- Moseley: 2 TD, 2 INT, 80.2 passer rating against
- Witherspoon: 7 TD, 1 INT, 117.1 passer rating against
Once again, it may be obvious.
But, the 49ers love Witherspoon, and he is certainly more than capable to provide some fools gold in training camp. Outside of Richard Sherman, Witherspoon is the tallest cornerback of the group and certainly the most athletic cornerback on the team.
With Witherspoon attaining those athletic tools and competing against an exciting and young-yet-unproven wide receiver core, it could provide Witherspoon with some serious considerations to become a starter once again.
If the 49ers decide to bet on the former third-round pick yet again, it could spell trouble right out of out the gates. Week 1, the 49ers will face the Cardinals, who have wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and some guy named DeAndre Hopkins, in what is known as the air raid offense.
In Witherspoon’s final six starts, he allowed six touchdowns and a quarterback passer rating no lower than 100.9 in all six of those starts.
Both Week 17 in Seattle and in the Divisional Round versus Minnesota, Moseley had to come off the bench to replace Witherspoon. It could be widely debated if the 49ers even survive those games without Moseley. The final score versus Minnesota was not close but Witherspoon could have potentially given up big play after big play to Stefon Diggs or Adam Theilen. To be fair, the score was still 7-7 when he was pulled.
Robert Saleh must trust what he saw from Moseley last season and recognize he can grow and get even better and avoid being disappointed by Witherspoon once again.