The Eagles week one victory went off without a hitch—anything that could go right, did go right. One such positive being the debut of DeVonta Smith, whose team-leading six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown (8 targets) indicate that he’s immediately the “1A” option the Eagles hoped he would be.
Though he’ll draw his fair share of premium matchups throughout the year, Smith’s opener against Atlanta’s porous defensive backfield and second-year corner AJ Terrell was arguably one of the easier tests he’ll face all season. Fortunately for him, his upcoming matchup with San Francisco’s secondary appears to be just as easy.
Amid a string of injuries for the 49ers to begin the year, number one corner Jason Verrett was lost to a season-ending ACL tear late in Sunday’s win over Detroit. The cornerback room in San Fran wasn’t strong to begin with, and without their top option DeVonta Smith ought to be licking his chops. Verrett’s exit more or less coincided with a Lions fourth quarter comeback, and while there are a number of reasons for the near-blown lead, it’s hard to deny that his absence played a role.
Verrett likely would have followed Smith around the field (if not to start the game, at some point) and replacing him will likely be some combination of Emmanuel Moseley, rookie Deommodore Lenoir, and freshly-signed Josh Norman.
Moseley is the other starting corner for the 49ers, and has had his share of ups and downs as a starter for parts of the last two seasons. Though he was unavailable for week 1 with a knee injury, if he’s able to suit up on Sunday then he’s the most experienced and reliable in-house option.
Lenoir, on the other hand, is a fifth round pick out of Oregon who appears to have been a diamond in the rough for San Francisco. He started in place of Moseley in week 1 after drawing rave reviews throughout the preseason, and was the only 49ers defender to play all 90 snaps in their opener. Per PFF, Lenoir was only targeted three times out of Jared Goff’s 57 pass attempts, allowing just one catch for three yards.
Finally, the newly-inked Josh Norman was added in the middle of week 1, and in the aftermath of Verrett’s injury could very well see starter reps against the Eagles. The 49ers anticipate that Norman will be up to speed by this weekend, and his availability couldn’t come at a better time for them. While he’s over the hill in terms of ability and talent, his experience and length is invaluable in a matchup with DeVonta Smith.
Regardless of which corner the 49ers chose to charge with Smith responsibilities—likely a mix of all three—it goes without saying that this will be one of his easiest matchups of the season. DeVonta Smith didn’t disappoint in his Eagles debut, but he could be poised for a breakout this week against a beleaguered 49ers secondary.
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