DeMeco Ryans Is Confident in His Surprise 49ers Starter

Deommodore Lenoir, San Francisco 49ers

Getty Deommodore Lenoir defending a pass for the San Francisco 49ers.

After largely beginning the 2022 NFL season on the bench for the San Francisco 49ers, Deommodore Lenoir has found himself a full-time starter opposite Charvarius Ward in DeMeco Ryans’ defense. A fifth-round pick out of Oregon in 2021, Lenoir took over the CB2 spot from an injured Emmanuel Moseley in Week 6 and has since gone on to play 97 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.

When asked about how Lenoir has acclimated himself into the starting lineup during his Thursday media session, Ryans complemented his young corner’s resolve.

“Yeah, I think D-Mo is a young player who has stepped in for us,” Ryans said via 49ers Webzone. “I think he’s done some really good things. He’s grown a lot. He’s been he’s been steady for us out there and of course, for all of us, we can all make more plays, we can all play better and he falls in that category as well, but I’m happy with the growth that I’ve seen from D-Mo throughout the year and he’ll continue to get better with the more reps that he gets. This is truly his first year of truly playing and being out there for us, so it’s encouraging to see where he is and where he’s headed.”

Though advanced analytics sites like Pro Football Focus haven’t been as confident in Lenoir as Ryans, as he ranks 95th out of 123 qualifying cornerbacks with a Defensive Rating of 55.5, it’s clear the 49ers are high on their second-year pro, and that’s all that really matters.

Ryans Explains how the San Francisco 49ers Used Ward in Week 17

Elsewhere in his media session, Ryans was asked why Ward traveled with DK Metcalf against the Seattle Seahawks but stayed on his side against another Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver in DeVante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders. For Ryans, the choice isn’t so much about the quality of the opposing receiver and instead the game plan of that specific week.

“When it comes to traveling, all of that is pretty much dictated on coverage, so it could be, coverage that Mooney is traveling and it may not be, so it is all gameplanning,” Ryans said. “It’s all based on different calls and it’s not the same call every time we line up, so there will be different looks. We won’t give an offense the same look. We won’t be that predictable all the time and whoever lines up out there is expected to just make the plays, play with the proper technique that they’re supposed to play with. That’s what we expect. It doesn’t matter who lines up across from you.”

Even if the 49ers don’t always use it, it’s good to know that Ryans is confident enough in Wards’ abilities as a defensive back to lock him onto an opposing team’s WR1 if need be. With Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers on every team currently in the NFC playoffs, that could come in handy.

Don’t Count out”Jackrabbit” Janoris Jenkins Just yet

Though he hasn’t played a snap since Week 15, Kyle Shanahan hasn’t ruled out “Jackrabbit” Janoris Jenkins playing a role for the 49ers at some point down the line, as he explained to reporters during his media session on December 30th.

“No, there’s an opportunity for him,” Shanahan said via 49ers WebZone. “I think we’re set with our starters out there, but there’s an opportunity for him to get into that rotation and get in the group and be the next man up and we’ve been impressed with how he’s been here since he’s gotten in and we’re very glad to have him. We have no idea how it’s going to play out, but he definitely is an option here over the next few weeks.”

If Lenoir’s play begins to slip come playoff time or the 49ers suffer an injury in their defensive secondary, fans should be happy to know that the 49ers have a former Pro Bowler on the practice squad just waiting for an opportunity to see the field.

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