Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon hasn’t been in uniform this season, but there’s “no doubt” he’ll see action soon, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Thursday.
“He’s been working his tail off. His technique’s been improving every single week. And the way he’s been operating – and the way he’s been going since OTAs, really – and progressing, there’s no doubt he’s going to end up on the field sooner than later. There’s no doubt.”
The 49ers used a third-round pick on Witherspoon (Christian Brothers High School) because they liked his combination of quick feet and size. He played with the second-team defense throughout the spring and summer and has been one of the team’s seven inactive players during the first four games.
Cornerback, however, has been a weak spot on the defense. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks have a 108.6 passer rating when targeting the 49ers’ top cornerback, Rashard Robinson. The team’s other starter, Dontae Johnson, is allowing a 119.1 passer rating.
Still, Saleh said his defense was mostly “dominant” Sunday against the Cardinals until Arizona’s overtime drive of 75 yards, capped by Carson Palmer’s game-winning touchdown pass, the only time either team made it into the end zone.
“At that point Carson, after four quarters, I think he had a 70 quarterback rating, 250 yards and no touchdowns,” Saleh said. “So we felt like we played a dominant football game. Just that last drive – I’m evaluating that still and trying to process it through my mind.”
As for Witherspoon, he’s been working with the scout team in practice, which allows him to match up against Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and the 49ers’ top receivers.
“I really think I’ve taken some big steps these past three, four weeks on the scout team,” Witherspoon said. “ … It will be just a matter of time (before I play). It’s about staying patient and getting better all the time.”
Et cetera – Goodwin (concussion) was limited in practice but was not wearing a blue, no-contact jersey in practice. That suggests he will play Sunday despite suffering his fourth concussion in the past 14 months.
▪ San Francisco’s two main running backs, Carlos Hyde (oblique) and Matt Breida (ankle), were limited in practice.
▪ Safety Adrian Colbert (hamstring), linebacker Reuben Foster (ankle), safety Eric Reid (knee) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (groin) did not practice. Defensive end Pita Taumoepenu (ankle) practiced in full and could be in uniform for the first time if Watson is unable to play.