Injuries to the defense have backed the San Francisco 49ers into a corner, and the only way out appears to be a reliance upon the coverage skills of aging veterans.
According to a report by The Athletic’s David Lombardi, the Niners have landed on cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to replace starter Jason Verrett in San Francisco’s defensive backfield. Verrett tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of the Niners’ Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions.
“Source: The 49ers will be signing cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to fill the gap left by Jason Verrett’s ACL tear,” Lombardi tweeted Monday afternoon, September 13.
Emmanuel Moseley, who starts opposite Verrett at cornerback, is also sidelined with a knee injury. Though his health circumstances are not as dire, the timetable of Moseley’s return to game work remains an unknown.
Kirkpatrick Coming Off a Down Season in Arizona
There are reasons for Niners fans to be both encouraged and apprehensive about the move to add Kirkpatrick to the team’s defensive roster.
For the last six seasons of the cornerback’s nine-year career, his teams have seen fit to dub him a starter. Though he has never made a Pro Bowl, Kirkpatrick has started a total of 78 games during eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and one campaign with the Arizona Cardinals.
Over the span of his NFL tenure, the newest Niner has snagged 13 interceptions, defended 72 passes and scampered into the end zone for 2 defensive touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. Kirkpatrick has also sacked the quarterback 3 times, recovered 3 fumbles and forced another.
Experience in the league, however, is a double-edged sword after awhile. Following nine seasons in the league, the 31-year-old Kirkpatrick has slowed a bit.
Lombardi acknowledged as much in his review of the corner’s current on-field prowess.
“Who is new 49ers CB Dre Kirkpatrick?” Lombardi tweeted Monday. “31 year old who had several good seasons in Cincinnati. Had a down season w Arizona in 2020. Kirkpatrick is obviously past his prime, but he’s a seasoned vet at a position where the 49ers need one. Remember, this is a rush over coverage team.”
Kirkpatrick Newest Vet to Join Niners Defense, but Perhaps not the Last
San Francisco recently inked former All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman to a deal, another nine-year veteran who is likely to see real time as a member of the Niners’ defense. He was not elevated to the active roster for Sunday’s season opener in Detroit, though Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan said Norman was ready to play if necessary.
“He was definitely ready to go,” Shanahan told reporters after the game. “Josh actually told us if we tell him today that he’s up, he’ll be ready to go. So Josh has been a soldier all week, and I’m real excited to have him here. And I know he was ready this week, so I expect him to be ready next week also.”
The head coach also addressed the potential of resigning the now embattled Richard Sherman, who has dealt with off-field issues in recent months, to further bolster the defensive backfield.
“We’ve discussed it,” Shanahan said. “I’ve talked to Sherm about it too, and Sherm’s always a possibility.”
Lombardi reported, also on Monday, that just because the Niners went with Kirkpatrick, that does not mean their interest in Sherman has waned.
“The 49ers remain interested in potentially signing Richard Sherman at a later date,” Lombardi tweeted. “Remember, it’s a very long season and chances are SF will need even more CB depth to make it through — and a fresh vet late in the season might be able to give a significant boost.”