Defensive backs could be 49ers’ 2023 downfall, Donte Whitner believes – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

The 49ers’ secondary redeemed itself in the second half of San Francisco’s 30-23 Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, but there were pain points in the first half that concern NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Donte Whitner.

Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense controlled the first-half clock and picked apart the 49ers’ defense. The veteran quarterback completed 14 of his 18 attempts for 143 yards prior to halftime. Overall, Stafford went 34-of-55 for 307 yards, while rookie wideout Puka Nacua had 147 receiving yards on an NFL-rookie record 15 receptions.

What the Rams were able to do to the 49ers through the air could provide the NFC’s best teams with a blueprint for future matchups this season.

“The 49ers are going to regret not re-signing Emmanuel Moseley and Jimmie Ward because this defensive back group could be the downfall of the 49ers versus powerhouse teams in the NFC, such as the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, who have phenomenal talent at wide receiver,” Whitner said on the latest “Hitner’s Hot Take” segment. “I’m very confident in Charvarius Ward, not so confident in Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir.”

Up against the salary cap, the 49ers let Moseley and Ward leave in free agency earlier this year, with the former signing a two-year contract with the Detroit Lions and the latter inking a two-year contract with the Houston Texans.

In doing so, the 49ers banked on Lenoir, Thomas and Isaiah Oliver solidifying the cornerback position alongside Charvarius Ward.

The 49ers already had to make adjustments at nickel back during their Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the first half against the Rams looked like a continuation of those struggles.

But the position group turned things around in the second half against the Rams, as Lenoir and Oliver each recorded interceptions to help seal the 49ers’ win.

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With a dominant front seven and stout safeties in Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson Sr., the 49ers’ cornerbacks will have to raise their level as the season progresses if the team wants to reach its goal.

But if the unit struggles in future weeks, the 49ers now have the salary cap space to make a move before the NFL trade deadline to fix the problem.

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