SANTA CLARA — After an up-and-down start to his NFL career, Deommodore Lenoir has proved he is worthy of a starting position on the 49ers' defense.
The sophomore cornerback played his best football in the 2022 postseason notching two interceptions, two pass breakups and three stops through three contests. According to PFF, Lenoir allowed only five catches for 85 yards on 13 targets during that span.
"I know I wasn’t making a lot of plays on the ball at the start of the season,” Lenoir said after the club’s season ended. “But I just think I had to get comfortable and believe in myself more.”
The young defensive back credits his turnaround to a chat with former 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who he plans to work with during the offseason.
The two defenders spoke after Lenoir faced a challenging Arizona Cardinals game in Week 17, allowing six catches on eight targets for 93 yards and a touchdown — his only allowed score of the season.
“He’s simply playing more confident,” Sherman told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He studies and understands what he’s seeing, and plays it well. I just told him to not make it bigger than it is. I got that advice before the Senior Bowl and my game elevated ever since.”
The University of Oregon product started his rookie season with a bang as a starter in Weeks 1 and 2, but then appeared predominantly on special teams for the remainder of his debut season.
The 2022 season was the opposite for Lenoir who started only one game during the first four weeks but then locked down the starting role opposite Charvarius Ward in Week 6 and never looked back.
The week after Lenoir had the conversation with Sherman, the 23-year-old received a career-high 90.6 coverage grade from PFF. In that Wildcard win over the Seattle Seahawks the Los Angeles native allowed only two catches for 16 yards on the day.
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Lenoir shared he will spend part of the offseason training in Los Angeles, looking to work with All-Pros like Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay along with Sherman. Heading into his third season, the 49ers' 5th-round pick has a few goals in mind.
“Playing the ball downfield would be No. 1, and just really taking advantage of my opportunities,” Lenoir said.