Intriguing 49ers Camp Battles: See You, Raise You

Consider this a quick game of imaginary poker.
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Merry Christmas, Faithful. 

Wait, it’s only July. Forgive me, I’m just that excited like it's Christmas with the San Francisco 49ers starting training camp today. It may just be me, but this is exactly what it feels like after what seemed like the longest offseason ever. As I digress.

Welcome to (or back to) the Silverado with yours truly for yet another ride. I truly appreciate your time and attention as you could be anywhere else and doing anything else. So, thank you. Seeing as how we don’t have much time and there’s so much to do before camp starts later on today, this will be another short ride. And as you can see up ahead, Levi’s Stadium sitting pretty off in the distance.

Well, you know the drill at this point, please go ahead and click in your seatbelt and we’ll get started. To add a little more context to this ride, consider this a quick game of imaginary poker. This conversation will be a “see you, raise you” concept in reference to camp battles and the current narratives as to which players will start (or see more time) at three key positions.

DISCLAIMER: To avoid causing you a migraine, there won’t be a bunch of numbers (stats) discussed, but more so a focus on individual player skillset and their potential impact this 2021 season.

Cornerback

I’ll see you Emanuel Moseley and raise you Ambry Thomas. Yes, the No. 2 cornerback job is Moseley’s to lose as he’s a proven three-year vet, is very physical, tackles well, is decent in coverage, and has played at a fairly high level during his time with the 49ers. Of course, he's had his struggles, but I expect Moseley to come out motivated and play well this season as CB1 and continue to improve. 

Though Thomas has yet to take an NFL snap, look for him to have an immediate impact in the 49ers' secondary and possibly in the return game as well. Thomas is a man-to-man cornerback (his zone coverage can use some work) who plays a very physical style of football. The chances of Thomas jumping Moseley on the depth chart are slim, but I do expect him to see the field quite often this 2021 season, simultaneously pushing Moseley to play even better. 

As they say, iron sharpens iron. 

Running back

I’ll see you Raheem Mostert and raise you Trey Sermon. It’s no secret Mostert is the highlight and most explosive running back on the roster. Mostert is what I like to call weekend fast. Allow me to explain. I’m talking fast like getting off work Friday to start your weekend and before you blink, you’re waking up for work Monday morning. Yes, that fast. I like to call him, “Mr. Reservations for Six,” as he’s proven on multiple occasions he’s a threat to score each time he touches the football. If Mostert can stay healthy, I expect him to be the RB1 and put together another exciting season, especially with him being in a contract year.

Sermon is also a big play threat that runs hard, with good speed. Though he was clocked at 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, he plays much faster and is shifty as well. Certified dog! Sermon also has the ability to either run through, around or over (be it with contact or a hurdle) defenders. In addition, he’s also a threat in the passing game. Knowing how head coach Kyle Shanahan covets the running game, while he may not start, I expect a healthy dose of Sermon this season.

Strong safety

I’ll see you Jaquiski Tartt, raise you Tony Jefferson. Tartt has shown (when healthy) that he’s a difference-maker on the 49ers defense. While he isn’t considered what I like to call a “sky thief” (high volume interception guy) he most definitely makes an impact each time he steps on the field. His versatility is his strong suit as he can play either box (strong) safety, or drop down and play a linebacker role as well. Tartt has a nose for the ball and doesn’t shy away from contact flying downhill to make tackles. As of now, he should be penciled in as SS1.

Making his return to the field for the first time since 2019, Jefferson is a savvy, hardnose veteran looking to show the world he still has it and can be a playmaker. Ironically, he and Tartt have similar skillsets as they both can cover and make plays defending the run. 

If healthy, I can see Jefferson pushing Tartt for snaps. This is one of the more intriguing position battles this season. It’ll be fun to watch this competition develop. And be it Tartt or Jefferson, the strong safely position should be one of the best as either can leave fingerprints on a game with their individual performances. 

If both players are healthy, a 4-2-5 defense (big nickel using three safeties) is employed, both may been seen on the field simultaneously. The way both players fly around the field and have a nose for the ball, they can help the 49ers defense return to a defense that looks like it's sponsored by Visa, 'everywhere you want to be'.

We have arrived

Well, here we are, Levi’s Stadium. As I stated, this ride would be rather quick but hopefully you enjoyed yourself. As a reminder, the point of this conversation was less about which players will start at their respective position, but more so about the top players at their position and how each can and will contribute when on the field.

It's actually a luxury to have quality depth at the aforementioned positions and it will indeed be fun to watch each of them play to the best of their abilities and help the 49ers have a successful season. Thanks again for riding, see you next time.