No one in the San Francisco 49ers secondary could cover Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams on Sunday night.
Adams had 12 catches on 18 targets and 132 yards with a touchdown in the Packers 30-28 win over the 49ers. Adams had catches of 25 and 17 yards on the final drive of the game that set up a 51-yard game-winning field goal by Mason Crosby.
The 49ers are now paper thin on cornerback depth because Josh Norman suffered a chest injury and was ruled out shortly after and nickelback K’Waun Williams sustained a calf injury in the first quarter. Despite Williams being questionable and on the sidelines, he didn’t return.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan gave no indication after the game on how much time either could potentially miss.
“You think about everything,” Shanahan said on losing players to injury. “Any play caller on offense, defense or special teams, when you lose guys it affects every play call.”
The 49ers are already without cornerback Jason Verrett, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in week one against the Detroit Lions. So, losing Norman and Williams for any extended period of time could prove costly. San Francisco only had three healthy cornerbacks who suited up Sunday — Emmanuel Moseley (who made his season debut after missing the first two weeks with a knee injury), Deommodore Lenior and Dontae Johnson.
Once Norman and Williams went down, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers attacked Johnson and Lenior when they were in single coverage with Adams. The 49ers knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop it.
The cornerback depth issues root back to San Francisco’s offseason. The team didn’t put a heavy emphasis on using premium draft capital at the cornerback position. Instead of drafting Asanate Samuel Jr. out of Florida State in the second round of the draft this past spring, they went with guard Aaron Banks out of Notre Dame. Banks has been a healthy scratch during the 49ers first three games, while Samuel has thrived as a stalwart with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 49ers used its next draft pick on Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas, who has been a healthy inactive the last two games. Lenior was the other corner the 49ers selected and despite being a fifth-round pick, he has played significantly more to start the season than Thomas.
Another player the 49ers signed for depth at the position after week one was NFL veteran Dre Kirkpatrick. He was a healthy scratch Sunday, which left the 49ers with only five cornerbacks.
49ers safety Jimmie Ward joked after the game he might have to sub in to play the position because of all of the injuries. Ward started his career as a nickelback and transitioned to free safety.
“Who knows,” Ward said. “I’m always on standby. If something like that happened, I may have to go out there. Who knows. I’m glad it didn’t happen and I got to stay at my natural position.
If the cornerback issues linger the defense could be in trouble. The 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks next week with quarterback Russell Wilson and receivers D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The following week, the 49ers face the Arizona Cardinals, who are averaging over 34 points per game over the first three weeks.