49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon faces make-or-break 2019 after PCL injury

49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon faces make-or-break 2019 after PCL injury

SANTA CLARA — After a challenging start to the season, 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was getting back to the level of play that impressed many at the end of his rookie year.

But Witherspoon’s season was cut short with a sprained PCL on Sunday, and he will spend the final two games on injured reserve. Coach Kyle Shanahan said Witherspoon will need to prove himself again at the beginning of his third season.

“We’ll look at all the tape and put it all together,” Shanahan said Monday. “Wish he could’ve finished these last two games. I think he definitely was finishing better than he started. 

“But, his story is not written yet. He’s got to improve. Hopefully, he’ll come back here ready to go next year and take off the way he finished.”

Witherspoon had the additional challenge of playing opposite of veteran cornerback Richard Sherman this season. With opposing quarterbacks not wanting to risk throwing towards Sherman, they picked on Witherspoon’s side more regularly. 

In 14 games this year, Witherspoon registered 37 total tackles, 30 of them solo. He totaled 32 tackles in his rookie season (28 solo) and two interceptions in 12 games. 
Witherspoon will have his work cut out for him when he starts his third season. It looks as though he will be in competition with cornerback Tarvarius Moore.

Moore did a commendable job taking over when Witherspoon was injured midway through the first quarter of the 49ers' 26-23 win over the Seahawks. He finished the game with seven total tackles and two passes defended. 

While all players, including Witherspoon, will need to prove themselves again, Shanahan saw improvement over his last several games. 

“I thought he got a lot better in his coverage,” Shanahan said. “Just more consistent. Playing a little more physical in his coverage, too. I know he had some PI calls over the last month, ones that I wouldn’t want him to play differently. I thought he did a real good job on all those. I liked how he got more aggressive throughout the year.”
Prior to Witherspoon's injury, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke about the challenge the cornerback faced after his rookie campaign -- as well as his recent mindset. 

“He’s been gradually getting a lot better,” Saleh said last week, “and getting refocused and just understanding that in this league the three most dangerous words are ‘I got it.’ As soon as you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it. 

“So, he’s got great intent and he’s got the same mindset he had a year ago. When he plays with that mindset and builds into it, it’s a good lesson for everybody. You never have it in this league. Teams are always trying to find you. As soon as you let them find you, they’ll find you. He’s been good.”

While the staff sees the potential in Witherspoon, he will need to start next season where he left off: Aggressively, and with intent. 

49ers fans loudly, proudly take over LA Coliseum during win over Rams

49ers fans loudly, proudly take over LA Coliseum during win over Rams

Did the 49ers and Rams play in Santa Clara or Los Angeles on Sunday?

It was hard to tell, based on how loud 49ers fans were at LA Memorial Coliseum.

The Faithful flocked to sunny southern California for the NFC West showdown, and they made their presence known during San Francisco's 20-7 win over the defending conference champs. So much so that they caught many 49ers players' attention.

After the game, a few players took to social media to thank 49ers fans for taking over the Rams' home.

Even 49ers general manager John Lynch had to acknowledge the atmosphere the fans created in LA.

49ers fans have good reason to be hyped. Their team is 5-0 for the first time since 1990, and is one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL (Patriots).

The 49ers were expected to be better than they were last year, but no one could have predicted a start to the season like this.

[RELATED: Grading the 49ers in their road win over Rams]

Now, as NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco writes, it's reasonable to believe the 49ers are among the NFL's elite teams.

The next task for 49ers fans is to take over FedEx Field in Landover, Md., next Sunday.

Fantasy football waiver wire: Four non-QBs you should target in Week 7


Fantasy football waiver wire: Four non-QBs you should target in Week 7

We're almost at the halfway point of the fantasy football season.

Week 6 has come and gone (well, all but Packers-Lions on Monday night), and the pressure increases with each additional week that passes. You only have so much time to make up however much ground in your league's standings.

The Browns, Steelers, Buccaneers and Panthers all are on byes in Week 7, meaning several fantasy studs will be unusable. With that in mind, here are four non-quarterbacks to consider for waiver claims Tuesday morning, all of whom could play a major role down the backstretch of the fantasy season and are owned in fewer than 15 percent of Yahoo and ESPN fantasy leagues.

Mark Walton, Miami Dolphins RB

3 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, 1 percent owned in ESPN

The Dolphins are terrible, make no mistake. They have the third-worst defensive DVOA after five games of any NFL team dating to 1986, and they might be even worse on the offensive side of the ball. Of the other 31 NFL teams, the Jets are the only one that hasn't scored more than twice as many as Miami's 42 points on the season.

Still, though, they're an NFL team (barely) and they have (some) NFL athletes. They came a two-point conversion away from earning their first win of the season Sunday, and running back Mark Walton was a big reason why.

Walton got the start against Washington, and both his six carries and 32 rushing yards ranked second on the team behind Kenyan Drake. Walton also was very active in the passing game, catching five of his six targets for 43 receiving yards.

There aren't many usable fantasy players on the Dolphins, but Walton should get more opportunities as the season wears on.

Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers RB

2 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, 2 percent owned in ESPN

Snell would be the top waiver pickup if the Steelers weren't heading into their bye week.

A fourth-round draft pick in 2019, Snell had a breakthrough performance in Pittsburgh's surprise win over the Chargers on Sunday night, in which he rushed 17 times for 75 yards and caught one pass for another 14 yards.

Snell was more involved later in the game when James Connor was sidelined with a quad injury at the end of the third quarter. With Jaylen Samuels already ruled out for multiple weeks, Snell would be in line for a major role next week -- if Pittsburgh had a game.

Of course, the Steelers face the lowly Dolphins following the bye, so Snell potentially could be a great start that week, depending on Connor and Samuels' health.

Jacobi Meyers, New England Patriots WR

1 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, 1 percent owned in ESPN

At this rate, the only thing that might stop the Patriots is their health.

[RELATED: Why it's time to recognize 5-0 49ers as an elite NFL team]

Phillip Dorsett missed the Week 6 win over the Giants with a hamstring injury, and fellow wide receiver Josh Gordon left it with a knee injury and did not return. Jacobi Myers came on in his place, and the undrafted rookie displayed a good connection with quarterback Tom Brady, catching all four of his targets for 54 yards.

If Gordon and/or Dorsett misses Week 7, Meyers likely would be involved in every three-receiver set, and possible every two-wide set. That's someone you want on your fantasy squad.

Darren Fells, Houston Texans TE

3 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, 2 percent owned in ESPN

Chances are, your tight end has had a worse two weeks than Darren Fells.

After catching both of his targets for touchdowns against the Falcons in Week 5, Fells was more involved in the Texans' offense in Week 6, even if he didn't find the end zone. Fells caught six of his seven targets for 69 yards in Sunday's win over the Chiefs, a very respectable effort regardless of your scoring system, given his position.

With Will Dissly leaving the Seahawks' Week 6 game with a non-contact leg injury, the already-shallow usable tight end pool has become even more so. Fells isn't going to put up big numbers every week, but at this point, he's proven to be a better bet than most other widely available options.