It was only one game, but Jason Verrett made a case to keep a starting role even when Richard Sherman returns from injured reserve in Week 5.
The oft-injured cornerback had an impressive showing in the 49ers' 36-9 win over the New York Giants in Week 3, his first full game in over three years. Verrett showed signs of regaining his Pro Bowl form from 2015, when he recorded three interceptions (including one pick-six) and 47 total tackles, two of which were for a loss.
Verrett played 45 snaps against the Giants and allowed only two receptions on four targets for nine yards. The 29-year old cornerback played well enough to warrant consideration for more time on the field even without considering all of the injuries at the position, and there are several.
Sherman, who was placed on IR with a calf strain, is eligible to return in Week 5 when the 49ers host the Miami Dolphins. Emmanuel Moseley has been in the concussion protocol and K’Waun Williams has been dealing with a hip injury since the win over the Giants. Ahkello Witherspoon has been out with a hamstring strain since Week 2.
Even with the litany of injuries at cornerback, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh won’t name Verrett as a starter yet.
“Don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse quite yet, but give him the opportunity to just play and compete,” Saleh said. “Take it one game at a time. I don’t want to put pressure on him to think he’s got to do anything or improve anything.
“The whole thing for Jason is to find a way to get better every day and continue to stack up good days and everything will take care of itself. I love where he’s at mentally.”
Linebacker Fred Warner has been impressed by what he has seen from Verrett and has empathy for his journey back to the field. San Francisco's roster is filled with players who have missed extensive game time due to injury, and Warner believes it makes the 49ers even hungrier.
“J.V., he’s had such a long journey of overcoming adversity,” Warner said. "To be in the spot that he is now and be out there and making plays again. I’m so happy for him. He’s only going to continue to get better with reps and continue to get back in his groove.
“He flashed on Sunday and he’s only going to get better and more confident. We all know what he’s capable of.”
If Verrett continues on his upward trajectory, Saleh won't be able to keep him off the field -- even if he won’t tab him as the starter just yet.