Each week leading up to the start of training camp, 49ers.com will assess the team's roster as we get closer to the season. In this installment of the 2023 roster breakdown, we will address the cornerback position and how the unit has grown since the 2022 season finale.
Over the offseason, the San Francisco 49ers made some moves at cornerback, welcoming three new players to the position group. Joining the squad this season are six-year veteran Isaiah Oliver and rookies D'Shawn Jamison and Darrell Luter Jr.. Oliver, formerly with the Atlanta Falcons, came to The Bay during free agency and signed a two-year deal with the team. Jamison joins as an undrafted free agent and Luter Jr. was San Francisco's third pick in this year's NFL Draft, selected at No. 155 overall in the fifth round.
"Ambry, I thought has had a great OTAs and mini-camp," defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said. "And I saw progression with Sam Womack as well, so I'm excited about the young guys that we have on the outside."
With Jason Verrett starting the 2022 season on the Reserve/PUP list, Ward and Emmanuel Moseley took the starting roles at cornerback for San Francisco. In the first part of the season, Moseley registered 22 total tackles, five passes defended and career-first pick-six. Things took a turn for the position group after Moseley suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers.
From Week 5 on, Ward further leaned into his veteran CB role and San Francisco relied a bit more on its younger talent, such as Deommodore Lenoir, Thomas and Womack III, to step in and play in tandem with Ward. Collectively, San Francisco's cornerbacks allowed an average of 222.9 passing yards per game, contributed to a 49ers secondary that allowed the ninth-lowest yards per reception average (10.5) and aided a defense that finished the regular season second in the NFL in total yards allowed (5,110).
A cornerback out of the University of Texas, Jamison has appeared in 60 games (40 starts) and tallied 139 tackles, 23 passes defended, six interceptions, six tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, 1.0 sack and one forced fumble. Jamison also spent time as a kick and punt returner, rushing back 54 kicks for 1,435 yards and two touchdowns and 44 punts for 368 yards and one touchdown.
In May, Jamison agreed to terms with the 49ers to become an undrafted free agent.
Knight originally joined the 49ers as an undrafted free agent ahead of the 2022 season, spending the year on the team's practice squad. In January, the 49ers signed Knight to a Reserve/Future contract.
A cornerback out of South Alabama, Luter Jr. was the first of two fifth-round draft picks selected by the 49ers in this year's NFL Draft. He appeared in 36 games in three years (2020-22) at South Alabama and registered 86 tackles, 16 passes defended, five interceptions and one forced fumble after transferring from Pearl River Community College where he appeared in 18 games in two seasons (2018-19) and recorded 27 tackles, 14 passes defended and three interceptions.
Oliver was originally drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round (58th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft. Throughout his five-year NFL career with the Falcons (2018-22), the cornerback has appeared in 62 games (38 starts) and registered 195 tackles, 34 passes defended, three forced fumbles, 2.0 sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. In 2022, Oliver appeared in 12 games (five starts) and finished with 36 tackles, seven passes defended, a sack and one interception which he returned for 27 yards.
Thomas is entering his third season with the 49ers. He was selected by the team in the third round (102nd overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft. Throughout his first two years in the league, Thomas has appeared in 29 games and notched six passes defended, an interception, 52 total tackles and a tackle for loss (including postseason).
"I'm very impressed with being in gym shorts right now," Wilks said of Thomas' minicamp performance. "We'll see exactly once we get to the preseason, I'm very confident that he can get it done."
Ward arrived to The Bay last year as a prized free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs. In his first year with the 49ers, Ward started in all 17 games and recorded 11 passes defended, 87 total tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, earning an 83.2 overall PFF grade. Following the end of the 2022 season, Ward landed on Pro Football Focus' list of the top 101 players at No. 61, also posting the best PFF run-defense grade of any outside cornerback (91.0).
"He's our leader back there now," defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks said. "You're seeing him grow this year, taking the next step from a vocal standpoint, being a leader."
Womack III is entering his second season with the 49ers after being selected by the team in fifth round (172nd overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft. The cornerback had an impressive start to his career, notching a pair of interceptions in his preseason debut against the Green Bay Packers. He posted another pass breakup in the preseason finale vs. the Houston Texans and finished the preseason slate with zero receptions allowed on five targets.
Throughout the 2022 regular season, Womack III made 16 game appearances and saw a majority of his snaps on special teams. Womack III finished his rookie season with 13 total tackles, a tackle for loss, an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two passes defended.