San Francisco

Cornerback Verrett Could Be a Key to 49ers Defense

If former Charger stays healthy, he and Sherman could give San Francisco a terrific tandem in the secondary

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The 49ers have a lot of "ifs" when it comes to the 2019 season.

If Jimmy Garoppolo can come back strong, if Dee Ford and Nick Bosa can provide a pass rush, if the offensive line can be consistently better and if Jerick McKinnon finally gets his chance to shine at running back, the Niners could contend in the NFC West.

Also, if Jason Verrett is healthy – and can stay that way – cornerback may transform from a position of weakness to one of strength.

A healthy Verrett – signed as a free agent from the Chargers – and Richard Sherman could give San Francisco a terrific tandem at the corners. But if the fragile Verrett is hurt again, the 49ers could struggle.

This week, Mark Chichester of the analytic website Pro Football Focus included Verrett in his 10 candidates for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Garoppolo also was included. He's obviously San Francisco's most important player entering this season. But Chichester also sees Verrett as a possible big story for the team.

Wrote Chichester: "If there is ever a comeback story to get behind, it's this one. Verrett, a supremely talented cornerback out of TCU, has managed all of 1,266 snaps over his first five years in the league, no thanks to his improbably bad injury luck. However, in his lone 'full' season in 2015 (and even that consisted of only 720 snaps), he managed to put together an elite 90.9 coverage grade while allowing a passer rating of just 82.9 on throws into his coverage. If he can stay healthy (and it is a big if), he is, without a doubt, a starting-caliber cornerback, one that can bring the Niners defense back to former glory."

Sherman, meanwhile, says he believes in this secondary and says Verrett can be a key addition. But having a better pass rush will give every cornerback a much better chance to succeed.

He and Verrett could thrive with that improved rush in 2019.

"We needed guys to hit (the quarterback) in the face," Sherman said recently. "You need a few of them. Now we have guys that can rotate in and rotate out and put pressure."

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